LETHBRIDGE – For 40 days, it’s been a man, his dog and a canoe on a mission to raise awareness and offer thanks to Canada’s veterans.
“He’s amazing. He’s my navigator, my bear scarer, my campsite soldier and bar none my best friend,” Mike Ranta said.
Ranta and his dog, Spitzii, are paddling from coast to coast, making every stroke count. He’s on the cross-country adventure to send a message to Parliament Hill.
“I took on this journey to raise awareness for our veterans and to just say ‘thank you’ to these guys,” Ranta added.
Ranta and his dog are stopping at legions across the country, meeting veterans along the way.
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“We gotta help them. That’s my passion here right now, this is why I want to do this, and show appreciation, shake their hands, write their names down on my canoe,” Ranta said.
His efforts aren’t going unnoticed. Legion members like Jeff Alden see his desire to improve veterans affairs and say change is imminent.
“They may be doing stuff that they feel is right for veterans. I think a lot of it is the perception of what’s right as opposed to what is really needed.”
Ranta knows firsthand how important support is for those who serve the country.
“I have a brother who’s been in the services, he’s a good man. He came back and he’s got a touch of the PTSD and I’d like to see more help for these guys. Five per cent of the homeless people on the streets are veterans, and that’s not Canadian,” he added.
Wayne King is a veteran himself, who now helps other veterans find the services they need. He said he is touched by Ranta’s desire to bring change.
“He’s an individual who’s responded to a situation that he’s seen within his own family, which is certainly applaudable,” King said. “But in doing so, I think he’s bringing light to a broader group of veterans in our society that certainly need help.”
Ranta set sail on April 1 from Vancouver, B.C., battling some rough waters, steep terrain and even wildlife at times. It will take him months to get to his final destination, Cape Breton, N.S.–where he’s hoping to arrive Sept. 29.
“We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m really looking forward to getting around the next bend in the river, and just meet new people along the way,” Ranta said.
You can follow Ranta’s journey or donate on Facebook or through his website.