WABASHA, Minnesota -- Days after Hector Manley graduated from the University of Tampa, he took on a new challenge: kayaking the entire Mississippi River to benefit injured veterans and people with disabilities.
Manley started his journey, called Paddling for a Purpose, last month at the headwaters of the Mississippi in Minnesota's Itasca State Park. He Skyped with 10 News hundreds of miles from there in the city of Wabasha.
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"The fun part has been actually spending time with family," he said. "My mom and dad are here, as well as my roommate from college. He has to report to the military in the next couple of weeks."
That's why he's raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as the Wheelchair Foundation. There's also a personal motivation behind that.
Manley lost both of his legs after an earthquake in his native El Salvador. He wants to expand access for people with disabilities and, as Manley said before he left Tampa, he wants them to know anything is possible.
"It's not every day you hear of a double amputee who wants to do this," Manley said during an interview with 10 News last month. "And, you know, I want people to think like that, to think bigger than themselves."
There are a lot more rapids and other challenges on the Mississippi than there are on the Hillsborough River, where Manley is used to kayaking. But after 600 miles and $27,000 raised so far, he says every bump in the journey is worth it.
"I'm very happy and very fortunate and thankful to be able to follow this crazy dream," he said while Skyping. "It started two years ago, and now, I'm finally on the river and it's something that I'm very thankful for and I want to make the most of it."
To donate to Paddling for a Purpose or keep up with the journey through his blog, click here.