Mel’s Charities to revive down river canoe run to Grafton

Memorial Day weekend fundraising event to end with party in Veterans Park
Ozaukee Press Staff

Mel’s Charities will host its inaugural River Run on May 28 on Memorial Day weekend — a charitable event that will resurrect the downriver run formerly hosted by the now defunct Grafton Jaycees.

Mel’s River Run will be a family-friendly event where participants can float down the Milwaukee River in kayaks or canoes from Waubedonia Park to Grafton’s Veterans Park for a cause.

Hundreds of people participated in the Jaycees annual river run before it ceased in the early 1990’s.

Mel Charities Executive Director Tom Stanton said he got the idea to start a new river run when he was contacted by Bill Bierman, a former participant of the Jaycees river run. Interested in the idea, Stanton said he asked around and found many people remembered the river run and were excited about it returning.

The event was first slated to premier last year but Stanton said Mel’s could only reserve space in Grafton’s Veterans Park in August, when water levels in the river were too low to accommodate the run. Having a spring start this year will ensure kayakers and canoeists can easily traverse the river, he said.

Registration for the event will begin at 7:30 a.m. May 28 in Fredonia’s Waubedonia Park, where the vessels will be launched. Once buoyant, participants will cruise down the river, enjoying roughly 13 miles of scenic landscape before arriving in Veterans Park.

At the park, Mel’s Charities will have food and beverages available for purchase. Chris Eden of Midwest BBQ Outreach Inc., a nonprofit organization that supports Marine veterans, will cater the event.

Stanton said a kayak or canoe are not needed to enjoy the festivities. All are welcome to gather in Veterans Park for food, drink and to see kayakers come ashore.

“Even if you’re not going to be in a canoe or kayak, you can still come down, hang out, have fun with us and get something to eat and drink,” Stanton said.

The event, sponsored by Port Washington State Bank, is not a race. Participants are encouraged to bring water and other necessities for the run, which could take three to four hours to finish.

Online registration is preferred and includes a T-shirt if completed before May 8. The cost is $20 per person.  

Registration can be completed at

Registrations completed after May 8 will be $40 per person and does not include breakfast.

Once registered, participants may pick up a packet from Mel’s headquarters at W61 N297 Washington Ave., Cedarburg. Packets may be picked up on May 22 from 12 to 3 p.m., May 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. and May 26 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Packets include T-shirts for those who registered early, breakfast vouchers, entry wristbands and a waiver which must be signed.

With the event occurring on Memorial Day weekend, two patriotic contests will be held, one for the best dressed individual and one for the best decorated canoe or kayak. A team of judges will evaluate costumed participants and vessels prior to the start of the run and the winners will be announced in Veterans Park.

Stanton said proceeds of the event will be used to support Midwest BBQ Outreach.

“It’s a great partnership. We’re going to work together to impact these individuals who have served our country,” Stanton said.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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