Registration is now open for the 5th Annual Landing to Landing Canoe and Kayak Race on Sept. 14.
The race serves as the annual fundraiser for the nonprofit organization Together Forever: A Skyler Sanders Family Foundation, which provides all-expenses-paid Branson vacations to families with a child or parent battling cancer.
Together Forever was started by the family of Skyler Sanders, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 8 following a 26-month battle against a rare and inoperable brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma.
Together Forever President and Skyler’s Father Ryan Sanders said following his diagnoses they had the opportunity to do several things together to create some memories as a family, which ultimately became the inspiration for the foundation.
“After he passed in 2010, we wanted to be able to give back to families that are going through similar situations. So that’s where Together Forever started, Sanders said. “It allows us to be able to bring families to this area that are battling cancer. Whether that’s a young child or a parent that has a family. We didn’t want to just limit it to children. We know that whenever cancer hits young parents, it can affect the family all the same.”
Since the foundation began, more than 30 families have been selected to receive an all-expenses-paid, four-day, three-night trip to Branson. The foundation pays for the family’s lodging, meals, gas and tickets for a Branson attraction. A photographer is also brought in to take photos of the family at a point during their stay.
“So the funds that we raise for this event will help basically fund the families for the upcoming year. Each family that comes in obviously costs a little bit of money,” said Sanders. “We’ve got some great donors out there as well, but we are out some funds to bring these families in. By having this event and raising these funds allows us to help as many families as we possibly can.”
When the Sanders’ began their search for an event that could serve as a fundraiser for the foundation, Sanders said the idea of a kayak and canoe race just kind of jumped out at them.
“It’s something a little different than your typical golf tournaments or 5K’s. We wanted to do something a little more unique, so that’s when Landing to Landing came into play,” Sanders said. “We do have some competitive people out there that do race seriously, but we have a lot of people who just show up to support the foundation and just have a good time.”
The race will feature two divisions. A three-mile race and then an eight-mile race for more advanced competitors. The three mile race begins at Cooper Creek Access at Lilly’s Landing and ends at the Main Street Marina at the Branson Landing. The eight mile race will also end at the marina at the landing, but will begin at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery in Branson.
By giving families the opportunity to come to Branson and take a few days to create memories together, Sanders said it serves as a way to keep Skyler’s story alive.
“Skyler was a true inspiration to us as parents in a short time, but also to a lot of people he was an inspiration. We want to be able to share that with other people. So as these families come in, just being able to relate to them and know what they’re going through helps them,” said Sanders. “We stay in contact with a lot of them. We follow them on Facebook. They’ll reach out to us when certain things are coming up and we’re able to pray for them and just walk alongside them through their journey.”
Following the race, there will be awards presented to the different divisions and a meal for the participants. A member of one of the families that has benefited from the foundation will also be at the event to speak.
Early bird registration for the race is going on now through Aug. 14. The early bird cost is $35 for a single person kayak or paddle board or $55 for a two person tandem canoe or kayak. After Aug. 14, the advance registration fee will increase by $5. Race day registration will be $50 for a single kayak or paddle board and $70 for a tandem canoe or kayak.
Visit togetherforeverskyler.org for additional race and foundation information.