A conversation with two female veterans

When I first met Sara and Alicia, I got a sense of quiet strength and fierce confidence. The two thirty-something friends have both been through a lot in their lives, but refuse to let that stop them.

When I spoke to Sara and Alicia I was learning about a small, organic farm that they run together. It wasn’t until later that I learned the two young women are both veterans. It is that very humble and giving attitude that makes them both so special.

Sara, an air force veteran and military wife, lost her husband to cancer three years ago. It was during his sickness that Sara and her husband started looking in to a diet based in healthy foods- vegetables, fruits, meats, nuts and grains.

After her husband passed away, Sara purchased a farm, like the two of them had envisioned doing together. It was during this time that she began to realize the healing power of producing food. Working with her hands to grow food and take care of animals was beginning to help heal her physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Sara met Alicia during a conference for veterans learning how to farm. After the conference, Alicia packed her bags and moved states to work with Sara on the farm.

Both women have seen the struggles of veterans when returning from deployment. Alicia, a combat veteran, learned firsthand the transition to civilian life is tough. After losing military friends to suicide after deployment, she wanted to find a way to heal and eventually learned that agriculture was a way to do that, she said.

Today the operation is a small-scale sustainable farming business that has sheep, pastured chickens, turkeys, ducks, pigs, beehives, apples, pears, strawberries, peaches, a garden full of vegetables and more.

Sara and Alicia have grown the operation to become a place of healing for others as well. They offer education and training opportunities to veterans who want to get involved.

“Seeing veterans connect with the land and build relationships with animals is magic,” Alicia said. “So much about being in the military involves destruction, but in agriculture you get to heal things.”

A look at some of the questions:

What is a challenge you have faced?

The industry can feel male-dominated. However, there is a growing trend of women farmland owners and we’re happy to be a part of that. It’s pretty special.

Advice you have to others:

Band together. A lot of times there is sexism in farming, or in any industry for that matter. It’s OK to have a voice.

Goals for the future:

Continue to work with the land and hope that other veterans will be able to reconnect with themselves through farming like we have.

Click here for more conversations.


Conversations with farmers

*editor’s note: Today’s “conversation” is a little different than usual. It has been something on my mind lately especially with all the recent talk about the need to feed 9 billion people by 2050 and the concern of where that food will come from. It is less of a conversation in the sense of a one-on-one with someone, but more like a snippet of several conversations.

They work long, hard hours. They take care of animals and the land. They spend days and nights tending to natural resources. They grow food. They feed the planet.

Since I’ve started this new job I have been able to talk with countless farmers about their jobs, operations and families. I have visited dairy farms, Christmas tree farms, grain operations and many, many more.

No matter the differences between the operations, each farmer I’ve spoken with has agreed on one thing: “We need to do a better job of telling our story.”

I have heard this sentence over and over. In the past farmers have been known to be hard working, but private people. Today more and more farmers seem to know they need to get the word out about what they are doing.

With so many opinions about industrial farms vs. organic farms and the treatment of animals and concerns of conservation, farmers know they need to do a better job of telling their stories.

Farmers have the stories to tell and they want to tell it. They are modest people who work hard and don’t expect a lot in return.

If you talk to a farmer today, you’ll likely hear about how their parents did it and their grandparents did it and their great-grandparents did it. Most farmers live on or near the same property that has been in the family for generations. They raise their families teaching them the same thing their parents taught them. They hope that their kids will see the value in the work and continue on the legacy.

Sometimes today the younger generations in farm families come to a cross roads of coming back to the farm, where they might not make as much, or go to a different job. Although it’s different for everyone, most will tell you it’s in their blood regardless of what they choose.

Upon talking with a young, twenty-something farmer about what it was like to work so hard and not always see the reward. He simply said it was worth it.

“Once you grow up doing something, you can’t imagine doing anything else…it gets in your blood.”

Another farmer spoke of the importance of telling his story, which was for education purposes. He wants people to know where their food comes from.

“I really want to hook agri and culture back together,” he said. “Beef doesn’t come from a plastic tray at Kroger, it comes from cattle. This is part of telling our story.”

I know this is just a small snippet of a much, much longer conversation. and I’m sure there will be many more conversations like it in the future with my job. Just some food (pun intended) for thought on this beautiful, beautiful Thursday.


The future, as told by my fourth grade self


“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Mrs. Langley, my fourth grade teacher, asked the class.

Several hands shot up.

A lawyer. An interior decorator. A dirt bike champion. A space engineer. A teacher.

“What about you?” she asked me.

A story writer.

She asked the class to write a one-page essay about what our future would be and turned it in to a book-which I still have. (see the picture above)

I knew then, at age 10 that was what I wanted to do. I didn’t know the kind of writing I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to write.

I thought it was interesting when looking back that I didn’t write author or simply writer, I specifically wrote story writer.

The more I thought about it, I decided it was fitting to what I want to do 14 years later (now). With writing I want to tell stories, but I don’t just want to tell stories, I want to tell people’s stories. Heck, I want to tell my own stories.

That’s why I went in to journalism. There is something so satisfying about meeting someone, talking and finding out their “thing.” Everyone has a thing and most don’t even know it.

In the past year I have talked with a preacher who decided to start a hot sauce business, a woman who retraced the Trail of Death, the forced removal of Potawatomi Indians from north central Indiana to eastern Kansas in 1838 and a woman who opened a coffee shop that accepts only donations.

I got to find the story behind each person – I was able to learn the man who started the hot sauce business used his mother’s recipe for one of the flavors. His mother has Alzheimer’s, which makes his connection to the sauce an emotional one. I learned the trip for the woman was a “spiritual journey” and is still very much a part of her today. I was able to ask how a business that accepts only donations survives and found out the answer: community.

I was able to get a glimpse of the stories that make up each person and I was given the opportunity to describe that story for others.

That’s what I’m trying to do with this project. I am attempting to update my series, or conversations, on a more consistent basis and it’s a work in progress.

I recently tweaked my name to “Collecting Conversations.” I know, I know, it’s not that different from the former name. I tweaked it to fall in line with this thought of telling other people’s stories. I don’t really feel like I’m “chasing” them, but I do feel like I’m collecting them and in a small way, carrying them with me.

The outtakes (in case you need a laugh):
Just in case you were wondering, in my future essay, my fourth grade self also said I would be married by 25 to a man named Casey, I would have twin girls and we would live in North Carolina. (None of which are true). My personal favorite though (and this is a direct quote from 10-year-old me): “My grandchildren were smart. They were all scientists.”

A conversation with a rapper

Hip hop and rap music gets a bad reputation. Most mainstream contemporary rap lyrics today have a reputation of having superficial lyrics about partying, drugs, money and love.

That is not what Clarence “T.A.G.” Garrett is about. In fact, “T.A.G.” – an acronym for “Totally Against the Grain” is exactly what Garrett is trying to be.

The Indiana rapper describes his lyrics as faith-based. His beliefs are a big part of his music.

“Faith is a part of my life,” Clarence said. “I’ve always gravitated toward positive and encouraging music.”

Some themes listeners will find in his music include life, struggles people face, relationships and even tough subject matter such as suicide.

Advice he has is to find a common ground. He dedicated his second album, “One Love,” to encourage others to bridge the gap between their differences.

“If we find some kind of common ground then maybe, just maybe, we can change the world.”

Additional advice he has is to keep with it and believe in yourself.

It hasn’t been easy for T.A.G. He has been rapping since 2000 but just recently  started recording music with the support of a friend who believed he could do it.

“I was ready to believe in myself as much as my friend believed in me,” he said.

His songs are upbeat jams with optimist lyrics. Although some of life’s struggles are mentioned on the tracks, the lyrics are friendly for all ages.

Song writing has come easy to him over the years.

“I gravitate toward the music where you stop listening and your life for that moment freezes,” he said. “I’m attracted to that kind of writing.”

T.A.G. pulls inspiration from all genres. Although he is a hip-hop writer, he pulls inspiration from pop, country, rock and others. His goal is not to be the best hip hop artist but to be a very good song writer.

Overall, some of the best  advice he has is to keep a balance.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to balance life, work, music and family,” he said.

A look at some of the questions

What has the response been to your faith-based rap music?
It’s interesting because whenever people first hear the music they tend to think, ‘oh, it’s hip hop’ and then they realize it’s different. I think it encourages people.

What is something you’ve come to realize about the business?

People complain about the rap music that is out there in the market, but continue to buy it. You have to support music like this if you want it out there.

What have you enjoyed the most about making music? 
Meeting people. I’ve been able to travel and meet a lot of new fans.

Want to know more about T.A.G.? Visit his website here for more information.

Read other conversations here.

A conversation with a dietetic intern


Alex, a down-to-earth recent college graduate, is no stranger to working for what she wants. When she started college she was  in an athletic training program before she realized she was more interested in nutrition and using it as a way to  help others. 

Fast forward and the determined twenty something not only graduated with a BS in Applied Health Science from Indiana University but snagged a competitive internship through Andrews University.

Alex packed up her things, moved to a new state without knowing anyone and is working as a dietetic intern at Atrium Medical Center.

As if moving and starting an internship isn’t enough, Alex is also working on her Masters in public health and adopted a cat named Myrtle (pretty awesome, right?).

Here’s what an average day looks like for Alex.

During each day she sees patients, who may have nutritional deficits. She also does diet counseling if a patient needs to be on a specific diet when they go home.

On a normal day she will see and talk with 5-8 patients, document everything and work on projects or case studies.

The best part of her internship has been learning the ins and outs of being a registered dietician. She is completing the internship to be eligible for the registered dietitian board exam. Her ultimate goal is to become registered and become a dietitian. 

“There’s only so much you can learn in class, so it’s great to get some experience before actually having a job,” she said.

The internship has also helped confirm her interests in the field. She has found out she enjoys the clinical side of dietetics because it’s more hands-on.

How does she stay motivated? By knowing the internship is not only a great experience but also going to help with her career.

“I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m not going to be an unpaid intern forever, even though it feels like it sometimes…” she said.

Her proudest accomplishment is moving somewhere out of her comfort zone.

“I’m very much a creature of habit, so I was really nervous and anxious about moving to Ohio, but I’m so proud of myself for doing it,” she said.

Since college her schedule has changed. She said she finds she needs to study a lot more now, not just cram. She also goes to bed and wakes up earlier than she used to, even on weekends.

With the whirlwind of change adjustment, the twenty something has plenty of good advice for those experiencing something similar.

Something that keeps her going is knowing she made someone’s life better. Helping patients makes Alex feel like she is making a difference.

Advice she would give to others who want to get in to a similar field is to not freak out about internships. Although they’re competitive, decent grades, a genuine personal statement and some experiences raises someone’s chances of getting one.

Career advice she would give to twenty somethings is to “find something you like, and do that.”

“How can you do something you don’t like everyday for the next 40-50 years and still be a decent human being,” she said. “I don’t think that’s possible, at least for me. I’d end up being a hermit or troll that lives under the bridge.”

A look at some of the questions

How do you stick with it?

I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m not going to be an unpaid intern forever, even though it feels like it sometimes. Eventually, I will get paid. (Hopefully!)

Best advice you’ve ever received on your major or your area of interest?

This counts towards dietetics and also life in general, but my dad has told me countless times “The world doesn’t revolve around you, Aggie.” I get so caught up in working and learning and thinking about the menu I need to write later I forget people don’t go to the hospital because they were bored that day and thought they’d come visit. They’re there because of a severe illness, and they need help recovering. That kind of puts things in perspective. The first priority should be helping patients, and that’s something I have to remind myself often. (Sidenote: I don’t know why my dad calls my Aggie, but he’s called my that since I was born. It’s a weird nickname). 

What is your dream job?

As of right now, my dream job would be working with individuals struggling with eating disorders. I have a minor in psychology, and I really enjoyed those classes, so pairing psychology and nutrition would be a great asset when working with eating disorders.

Scariest thing you’ve ever done?

I accidentally walked into a tuberculosis patient’s room without a mask! (TB is contagious.) But probably moving to Ohio by myself. Before this year, I’d never lived anywhere where I didn’t know a single person, so that was a big deal for me. I’m only about three hours away from my family and friends, but I’m in a different state, so it definitely feels farther away.

Hardest part of your internship?

Getting up at the crack of dawn, and medications. I can never remember all the medications.

 What will you be doing after your internship?

After the internship, I’ll take a board exam to become registered, and hopefully find a job somewhere. I’d take a job anywhere at this point, as long as it pays me. 

Where do you see yourself in two years?

I should be an RD by then, if all goes according to plan, and hope to have a job in an area of dietetics I enjoy. I’ll also be finishing my master’s, which is exciting.

Read other conversations in the series here.

A conversation with a philanthropist

Photo provided

Stacie Eichinger got the idea to walk across America after reading a book about it in high school.

The Tucson, Ariz. native decided a few years ago if she was going to do it, it was now or never. When planning the trip out, she decided she also wanted to raise money for a good cause.

That’s when she decided she was going to raise money for Beads of Courage while walking across America. The organization, as described by Stacie, is a program where every procedure has a specific bead to represent each surgery. Children patients, through the program, receive a bead for each surgery they have.

“There are these 5- or 6-year-old kids who have three or four necklaces and each necklace holds 100 beads,” Stacie said. “the story is powerful and touching.”

She began her walk on May 8th of this year in Ocean Shores, Wash. and plans to continue 3,800 miles to Savannah, Ga. Her trip should continue through February.

At this point she has raised a little more than $19,000, and is at 51% of her goal. She wants to raise 38,000.

Prior to her trip, Stacie volunteered for Beads of Courage. Along the walk, she has carried beads with her. For every $10 donated, she will receive a carry a bead matching bead set, according to her website.

Her goal is to carry a bead for every mile she walks – 3,800 beads, which has the potential to raise $38,000. Every bead she carries will be given to a child in the Beads of Courage Program, she said.

At the end of her trip, money raised will be used to purchase beads for the program. To run the Beads of Courage in one hospital, the cost is $10,000 each year. Stacie has almost raised enough money to run the program in one hospital for two years.

In addition to walking countless miles and visiting people, cities and towns across America, Stacie has stopped in hospitals along the way to meet children in the program.

According to her blog, Stacie is currently in Cincinnati. Those interested in keeping up with her adventure or donating money can do so by visiting her website here.

Advice Stacie has for others wanting to tackle a bigger project is to go for it. It hasn’t been easy planning everything out, but Stacie said she is beyond happy something that started as a dream became a reality.

Here’s a look at some of the questions:

How many shoes have you gone through?
Five- I’m about to be on my sixth pair. Each pair lasts about 500 miles.

What keeps you going?
On days when it’s a little windy and might not be that warm, I think about the kids and it makes it worth it.

What has the best part of your trip been?
Meeting people along the way – people have stopped a lot to ask me what I’m doing. It’s been great to talk with them. Everyone has their own story. 


*Photos were provided

Check out other conversations here.

A conversation with a POW

When I started talking with Mr. Burks, I didn’t know a lot about him. I knew he was a veteran and I knew he was going to be the Grand Marshall in this year’s Veterans Day parade. After speaking with him, I found there was a lot more to the 91-year-old.

Burks, a former prisoner of war and World War II veteran, went in to the U.S. Air Force in 1940 and was a B-17 bomber pilot in Europe. He was 18 years old at the time.

He spent one year in a POW camp after being shot down in Germany. During that year, he spent time at two different POW camps, one of which was Stalag 13. He recalls being shot down April 22, 1944. Eventually, Burks and two other pilots escape from the POW camp and spent one month on the run.

“We had to travel at night, stay in wooded areas during the daytime and sneak around until we could meet up with American forces,” he said.

Burks said they were brought back home in 1945. When he returned, he spent five years with a local police department before becoming a U.S. Marshal.

During his time as a U.S. Marshal, he played a role in the civil rights movement. Burks took part in more than one dozen school integrations.

In fact, Burks is one of the U.S. Marshals depicted in the 1960s Norman Rockwell painting of Ruby Bridges being escorted to school by U.S. Marshals.


Later Burks was assigned to the U.S. Marshals office in New Orleans. He also took part in integration of the University of Mississippi and at universities in Georgia and Alabama.

After 20 years as a U.S. Marshal, Burks retired. He spent 15 years in New Orleans and then came back to Indiana where is involved with both the Legion and VFW.

Before the event, Burks said it was his first time doing anything like leading a parade but he was looking forward to it.

The crowd who appeared on the sidewalks to celebrate Veterans Day and watch the parade, led by Burks, was a wonderful site to see. Others were able to not only honor Veterans, who put their life on the line, but thank them for their services.

The Veterans Day events were concluded after a speaker said: “A common bond veterans have is the willingness to die for their country… without freedom, life loses much of its meaning.”

So thank you, veterans. Thank you for everything you do. And thank you Mr. Burks for sharing some of your story with me.

Read other conversations here.

A conversation with an event planner


This week I talked with Ashley, a 24 year-old event planner from Valparaiso, Ind. Ashley  recently moved 2300 miles away from home to the Bay Area in California and started her own company, Elizabeth Ashley events. Check out her Facebook page (and like it) here.

Her favorite thing about the area is the endless activities she can choose from.

“As a tourism major, I’m so thrilled to be able to go out and explore where I’m living and see something new everyday,” Ashley said. “The views are gorgeous and endless.”

Ashley majored in tourism management: event planning and resort management and minored in ecotourism and park and recreation administration. She said she didn’t start as an event planner in college. She first began in elementary education.

“I’m really creative and educators run in my family so like any indecisive teenager, I settled with education,” she said. “I always knew deep down I wasn’t happy with it. I justified that I could be creative in the classroom, but it wasn’t my type of creative.”

She knew she wanted to get in to event planning when she dropped off a bride’s wedding invitations she had created.

“She just started crying. I was so shocked and touched,” she said. “I know this might sound cheesy, but I knew at that moment this is why I’m an event planner. I want to be part of these memories people will live with for the rest of their lives.”

Ashley is also working for her grandfather’s company. They train people to be bankers in casinos. She said California has a different law for casinos, where people can’t play against the house, so they need the third-party (Ashley and others) to come in and ‘bank’ the different tables. ‘So basically we’re professional gamblers,’ Ashley said laughing.

“It gets pretty crazy and we’ll be in charge of $20,000 + per shift,” she said.

Ashley said she is not nervous to be in charge of that much money because the training is thorough.

“I love that because they used to just throw people out there,” Ashley said. “We have to know the ins and outs of every game; the strategies, house way and all that.”

Ashley said the hardest part is getting used to distractions. They’ve been training in an office so when they actually get on the floor people are constantly going to try to distract them so they can have an advantage.

“I mean I’m in a casino right?” Ashley said. “Bright lights and loud music everywhere, but oh wait, I have about $35,000 in front of me right now. I need to pay attention.”

The best part has been networking. She has been able to meet a lot of people.

“There’s just a ton of opportunity for someone in my position who is trying to start a career out here on my own,” she said.

Since moving to California, Ashley recently started event planning for a non-profit organization, http://lifegoesonproject.org.

Her roommate’s son, who is a local rapper, was shot and paralyzed in 2007. He was standing outside a night club in San Francisco.

“It could happen to anyone,” she said. “He wasn’t in a bad area or anything.”

Ashley said they’re trying to reach out and make it known that gun violence isn’t just gang/street issue anymore, guns are affecting the suburbs too.

“It’s no longer a race issue, but an education problem and that’s what they want to get out there,” she said.

In the fall they want to do a back to school tour and educate youth. At the end of it, they’re going to throw a concert.

“I’m really excited to be in charge of a project like this and it’s really great because we have the support of local pro-athletes that these kids already look up to,” she said.

In event planning, she doesn’t have a specific market but would love to do everything.

“Why limit your talents to only weddings or specialty parties?” she said. “Everyone should be able to use your talents if they want, no matter the occasion.”

Advice she would have to for other twenty somethings is to go for it.

“The unknown is scary and we’re from an area where most of our parents grew up and the aunts and uncles and grandparents are all still there; not many people move away,” she said. “I knew for a while I was never going to settle down there. I’ve been to enough places and learned enough in the classroom to know there’s so much more out there.”

Ashley plans to stay in California for a while.

“Unless something amazing comes along, and I mean amazing; I’m here for the long haul,” she said.

A look at some of the questions:

Were you scared to move?

I’ve always seen myself living out here, and have said I would one day; I just didn’t think it would happen this fast. I was a little freaked out at first, but my grandma said it right, you can always come home. Which is so true. Most people would never try something like this. you have no friends here, your family is 2300 miles away. It’s scary, really scary. but a plane ride is only 4.5 hours away so I know if I really needed something family is still close

Have you met/seen anyone famous since moving?

Visiting LA, I’ve met Nick Swardson twice. He’s hilarious and seemed annoyed with us, but here’s my official apology to him, Nick we’re so sorry but you’re funny and IU had just won; so can you forgive us? 

Also, Frank Ocean skated past us and Gerard Butler came into Dope right after we left. Which sucks, but the fact I was even in the same place as him rocks 

and he supported Dope Couture.

When did you decide to move?
The move idea kinda just happened over night. I was talking to my friend the night before about any possible jobs in LA. there weren’t any and I was bummed. Well, the next day I was talking to my grandma, and she was like why don’t you go out and work for GFG? Next thing I knew I had a job. They stress to us in college it’s all about who you know, right? biggest over-sight of my life.

Had you visited California before you moved?

I’ve been flying out here since I was 5 to visit my grandpa. I was absolutely devastated when I found out he was moving back to San Francisco, but now I know why he did it. The opportunities out here are endless


What is your dream job?
Dream job? easily would be to work for David Tutera or become the David Tutera of the west coast.  He’s creative and brilliant and I love his style he brings to each of his weddings. He is personable and you can tell he cares. We’re in the business where it’s all about the customer, and they need to know that you care. this is the most important day of their lives and they’re relying on you to make it special.

Read other conversations from the series here.

Three(ish) ways to survive Monday

Monday is the day of the week with the worst reputation and I understand why. Here are a few things to make your day better and drag you out of your “Monday blues.”

1.)   Caffeine

For me it’s coffee. My daily coffee sometimes feels like the only reason I am able to stay awake when 3 p.m. hits. Obviously coffee is an acquired taste – try something else to jump start your morning. Exercising and breakfast are another way to get going on a Monday.

2.)    Conversation

Talk to your coworkers. Chances are they are just as unhappy to be working Monday morning as you are. Ask about their weekend and talk about yours. Talking with others will make your day less Monday-ish.

And if that fails….

3.)    Read this

25 things that will make you smile

or this

Moments that restored our faith in humanity this year 

or this

30 happiest facts of all time

(All from Buzzfeed.com).

A conversation with CTM


Have you ever wanted to take off work, travel and do something really fun but work, daily obligations got in the way? Well now you can; sort of.

Adam Hoffmeister and Madelyn Hille, two awesome twenty somethings, are quitting their jobs, and taking a 70+ day trip to canoe the entire Mississippi. Along the way, Madelyn will be documenting the trip by taking photographs, which will end up being published in a photographic journal depicting life along the Mississippi River. The photo book, titled Capturing the Mississippi (CTM) will allow others to see and experience the trip every step of the way.

On June 8, Hoffmeister and Hille will begin the 2,300-mile journey in their 18-foot Nova Craft Canoe. They will begin paddling in South Clearwater, Minn., at Lake Itasca and travel all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans, La.

Hille will choose a photograph at the end of each day that best sums up each day. It might be a group shot of people they meet along the way or a glimpse of a gorgeous sunset. The photographs will tell the complete story, quite literally, capturing the Mississippi.

“A year ago, I was going through a time when I was deciding what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” Hille said. “I’ve always loved photography, and Adam and I have both wanted to canoe the Mississippi. It’s an awesome opportunity.”

For Hoffmeister, the timing was right. Hoffmeister said they began talking about canoeing the Mississippi two years ago, but took a mission trip to Zimbabwe in 2011 instead.

“Mostly the timing is right and we’ve had this in the works for years,” Hoffmeister said. “Our lease is up in June, we don’t have plans for the summer, Madelyn just finished school and we both have jobs that are expendable. It’s all about the timing.”

Both Hille and Hoffmeister, who are in their 20s, are quitting their jobs to canoe the Mississippi. After the trip, they will be moving to Miami, Fla.

Hille said the 20-something concept is one of the reasons they decided to go through with the trip. She said she is obsessed with her generation because they are different.

“I’ve always been a little bit ashamed of our generation because we’ve been told we’re spoiled and our grandparents, parents worked harder than us,” Hille said. “But people our age are trying to go outside the conventional mold we used to fit into and try to do something unique, different to make ourselves happy.”


What began as an idea to canoe the entire Mississippi became a decision to create the daily photo book and while they’re on the river, they will also be raising money for the Flat Rock River YMCA Camp, a summer camp in St Paul, Ind., which teaches outdoor education among other things.

“We would have gone on the trip regardless but now we’re able to raise money for a good cause,” Hoffmeister said.

On May 2, they began a Kickstarter, an online pledge system for funding creative projects. They have until June 2 to reach their goal of $3,000 and if they don’t reach the goal, they don’t receive any of the money.

They will take the trip whether or not they reach their goal. The funding raised will go toward producing the photo book and excess be used for food, toiletry costs and travel expenses.

People who want to donate can visit Kickstarter.com and type “Capturing the Mississippi” in the search bar. They can then click on the project, watch the video to learn more and donate. As people donate, they can receive really cool prizes based on money donated. Some of those prizes are post cards with a personal message, copies of photographs or a hardback copy of the photo book.

“Everyone has been amazingly generous,” Hille said. “Our canoe, paddles and life jackets were donated to us.”

Besides those items, they will be taking basic necessities like light-weight clothes, camping equipment and food, Hille said.

Both Hille and Hoffmeister have planned for risks they might face, such as weather. If there is a large rainstorm, they plan to seek shelter for those days then resume paddling.

“The main thing through this entire project is it is fun,” Hille said. “Adam and I are taking the opportunity we have now and trying to make our lives fun and adventurous. By producing the book and documenting the experience, we are bringing along others with us.”

Learn more and donate:


Read other conversations from the series here.