IN PICTURES: CASTAWAYS AGAINST CANCER HONOR RESEARCH PLEDGES ON 23RD TREK

South Florida mangrove trails provide welcome shade for the kayak team.

On June 17, a group of intrepid kayakers and cyclists pulled into Key West Simonton Beach. For the paddlers, it was the end of a grueling one-week, 160-mile trek from Miami’s Virginia Key to the southernmost island. For the cyclists, it was just as taxing a trip, but faster – 175 miles in a single day. And it’s all in the name of cancer research.

“It was simply awesome,” said Jackie Suarez, the communications volunteer lead for Castaways Against Cancer, the organization that sponsors the yearly paddle to raise money dedicated to fight the deadly disease. “We surpassed our goal of $200,000 by raising $205,000 to date, and it’s still growing.”

Funds raised from the trip will go to the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. In February 2022, the Castaways announced a five-year, $1.5 million pledge to the research institute, and the University of Miami has pledged to match 50% of the funds raised by the adventurers each year.

Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.