By Natalie Strom
Steven R. Banks is attempting to go where no man has gone before. Well, that’s not completely accurate, but he is planning something extraordinary. On Friday, April 23, Steven will attempt to kayak the total outer perimeter of the Marco Island, Cape Romano, Coon Key and Goodland commons area. This kayak trip may certainly have been done before, but not within the 24-hour time frame Steven has planned. People may think Steven is crazy for attempting this, but the only thing he is crazy about is raising awareness for local and global humanitarian concerns. That is what “Kayak Marco 24” is all about.
Steven and his wife, Kieu, own Dreamlander Eco-Adventure Tours, a local company that offers kayak, paddle board and beach day adventures. They also offer overseas excursions through their company. Steven has spent a majority of his time overseas as a Master Chef on private yachts for many years. This “is where I developed my passion for travel, which led to me developing a passion for adventure, which led to me combining my passion for missions into all of that which has taken me half-way around the world,” explains Banks.
This current mission, Kayak Marco 24, will take him all the way around our islands. He is hoping to raise $20,000 to divide between two charities; one local, one international.
Steven has already participated in many mission-based projects. He has helped build clean water wells in Ecuador and was in Haiti during relief efforts after their devastating earthquake. He and his wife are so impassioned that they personally donate ten percent of their company’s earnings to different organizations.
Currently they are donating towards helping a family in Mexico. “Our first needs are going to a sixty year old woman, Leonarda Urestiougi, who is progressively losing her sight, and her son, Roberto, who is epileptic and has five to six seizures a day. Treatment in Mexico hasn’t been able to help them, so we are in the process of getting them immigration visas that are around $3,000 a piece to bring them here in order to get them proper medical care.”
Banks is currently establishing “One World Foundation,” a non-profit organization which will receive the ten percent his family donates to charity. “One World Foundation” will be their international outreach program to help families like the Urestiougi, providing financial, medical and other support throughout Central America as well as a project in Malawi, Africa. The project in Malawi, called “Partners in Hope,” is a medical center that offers free treatment for adults and children who have the HIV and AIDs virus, as well as other services such as education and, in some cases, providing care for local orphans. Fifty percent of the money raised from Kayak Marco 24 will go towards the “One World Foundation” to be spread among these groups.
The other fifty percent raised will go to a local, Naples organization called IMPACT. This is the outreach ministry of the Family Church of Naples. As Pastor Ben Sprankle explains, “IMPACT partners with local ministries and organizations to meet needs to make an impact in the community and an impact for Christ.” Some local partnerships include Habitat for Humanity and St. Matthew’s House. Impact events range from reaching out to the homeless to Easter egg hunts for low-income children. The group is also working on an international mission this month called “Sole Hope,” providing shoes for children in Africa. “Money for IMPACT mostly comes through donations within the church,” adds Pastor Ben, “the contribution through Kayak Marco 24 will help tremendously.”
Steven’s 24-hour voyage will not be an easy one. “I plan to start at the Snook Inn at 1:00 PM on Friday, April 23rd. This means I should hopefully be near Cape Romano around midnight. It’s a little dangerous because large bull sharks are known to spend time there at night.” He plans to take a few short breaks to eat and rest but should be back at the Snook Inn at 1:00 PM Saturday, April 24th. A celebration at the Snook will follow. The party will include live music and a raffle event for gift certificates and different prizes, all donated by local companies. A large banner will be displayed acknowledging all the different companies, organizations and individuals who helped donate to the cause.
Donations and sponsorship opportunities are available in a number of ways:
• PLATINUM BUSINESS SPONSORSHIP - $1,000 donation – Full business logo included on all marketing prints, posters, banners, etc. Full business logo included on shirts worn during all photo shoots and during the event.
• GOLDEN BUSINESS SPONSORSHIP - $500 donation – Full logo included on banner to be displayed at the Kayak Marco 24 finish celebration and name recognition on all marketing print and posters.
• SILVER BUSINESS SPONSORSHIP - $250 donation – Name recognition on banner to be displayed at the Kayak Marco 24 finish celebration and on all marketing print and posters.
• FRIEND OF KAYAK MARCO 24 - Any personal, family or group monetary donation or time donated as an event volunteer. Name recognition on banner to be displayed at Kayak Marco 24 finish celebration
The Banks family knows that they are asking for quite a bit of money and involvement. Yet, their desire to help and to serve others keeps them active in constantly participating in fundraising events.
Steven’s passion may come from the devastation he has seen throughout the years, but Kieu’s passion comes from personal life experience. Kieu, who is Chinese but lived in Vietnam, escaped the country at the age of 12 with her extended family. As the Vietnamese government had already taken their home and everything they had, the family facing prison, escaped by raft in the middle of the night. Kieu and her family floated for weeks before the Indonesian coast guard rescued them. Sent to a Malaysian refugee camp, the family spent the maximum allotted time there of two years. One week before they were to be shipped back to Vietnam, several churches out of the Asheville, North Carolina area intervened. They sponsored the family and brought them to America, essentially saving their lives.
Kieu and Steven simply want to pay it forward. Were it not for a church in North Carolina, they never would have found love, happiness and a great way to help others in need.
To learn more about Kayak Marco 24 or to make a donation, contact Steven Banks at 239-240-2117 or at dream [email protected] The Partners in Hope organization can be visited at www. partnersinmalawi.org. Contact Pastor Ben Sprankle at 239-325-4440 to learn more about IMPACT.