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Paddling for canoes across Canada

He stops at every Legion he comes across and gets veterans to sign his canoe.

Mike Ranta (same as Santa except with an 'R' he jokes) is already the first person to cross the North American continent solo, by canoe, in one season.

Now, he wants to be the first person to do it twice and after 144 days he's well on the way to accomplishing that feat.

"There, many times, death looks him in the eye. The dangers are real. There is no follow- crew, no support team paddling alongside, no -- this expedition is Mike, and his dog Spitzii," says his website.

Ranta and his faithful dog Spitzii started out from Vancouver, and passed through North Bay Monday. (Follow his progress and read his website here.)

This time Ranta wants to bring awareness to the problems created by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and honour Canada's veterans.

"It's not just to show appreciation to our veterans but to show kids across the country that through dedication, truth, hard work and honesty you can accomplish anything if you set your mind to it," he said while stopping by Canadian Legion Br. 23 late Monday afternoon.

But his main goal is to get veterans to speak out and address the PTSD issue and its ripple effects.

He stops at every Legion he comes across and gets veterans to sign his canoe.

"The reaction has been amazing. They've really stepped up. So many people have come out to support me and its very heart-warming, but its easy to put forth this effort for these men and women because if it wasn't for their sacrifice we wouldn't have what we have today. That generation did sacrifice so much and I want to say thank you."

Ranta isn't a veteran, but has a brother who is and is suffering from PTSD.

"It's a lot of support he needs, a lot of love and compassion and when I'm finished I want to take these guys back to nature. That's going to play a big part."

On this day Ranta, wearing his home-made birch bark hat, was greeted by Jim Thompson, the First Vice President of Branch 23.

"He's a motivator for veterans and legionnaires across the country because they realize that the ordinary Canadian citizen is fighting back to try and help the vets and recognize what they've done for the country."

Thompson is a counsellor and says he's seeing much more PTSD every day.

"Young people, and a lot of the older people still have it. They've battled it on their own over the years because nobody knew how to handle it or what the fix was for it. So we're slowly finding out what the answers are."

Ranta is now on his way to Mattawa. You can support him here.

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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