PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles pastor who traveled more than 1,300 miles via bike, kayak and foot around Washington praying and raising funds for orphans and widows has returned to Port Angeles.
The Rev. Joe DeScala, director of Mended church in Port Angeles, set off on the 1,376-mile trip along the perimeter of the state June 24 and returned home July 27.
The idea for the trip came after his 46-year-old cousin died suddenly in October, leaving behind a wife and five children.
Around his neck for the entire trip was a cross containing his cousin’s ashes and engraved with his cousin’s name, which added extra meaning for the journey, DeScala said.
The goal of the trip was to raise $10,000 for the church’s new Orphans and Widows fund, $5,000 of which went toward funding the trip. The rest went to the fund.
He raised $10,098, just past his goal.
“When we started the Orphans and Widows fund it was to raise awareness for those who experienced loss,” he said. “Everywhere we stopped we would have that conversation with people. A lot of people were really touched by it.”
DeScala tried to have someone with him at all times on his journey.
Friends and others ran, biked and kayaked alongside DeScala as he prayed.
“It was apparent as I was cruising and praying this was a team effort,” he said, adding the highlight of the trip was seeing the community get involved with the project.
When he returned to Port Angeles he learned of the recent deaths of Sequim resident Robert Streett and his eldest son, Robby Streett, who were involved in a head-on-crash while traveling on U.S. Highway 160 in Colorado. Robert’s wife, Josslyn, and youngest son, Sawyer, survived.
He saw the tragedy as an opportunity to disperse funds from the Orphans and Widows fund, he said.
“We were brought a need that was completely what this fund was for,” he said. “Our hearts break for them, but we’re glad we are able to help.”
The trip was far from easy and was a test of his endurance.
He spent 1,126 miles on bike, 118 miles kayaking and 132 miles running.
Among the most difficult miles for DeScala was when he was kayaking the Columbia River, he said.
He said for three of four days he battled horrendous headwinds on the river and was kayaking about half as fast as he had hoped.
“It was a pretty amazing physical endeavor and I could feel the prayer and love being sent my way to accomplish it,” he said. “That was a section that stood out in my mind.”
When he arrived in Vancouver, Wash., he visited with his late cousin’s spouse, who expressed how important DeScala’s journey was to her, he said.
DeScala said he is unsure yet of what exactly will be done to continue spreading awareness of the fund, but said he envisions an annual journey just like the one he went on.
“I would love to keep this multi-sport endurance race aspect on an annual basis,” he said. “I have planted in my mind to get teams that want to do the trip around Washington, raising their own support and tackling it as a team event.”
He plans to spend the next six months or so traveling and talking about his experience and said he would be open to talking to local clubs and organizations about the experience.
For more information about the the Orphans and Widows Fund and to donate, visit www.wearemended.org/oaw.
DeScala can be reached by calling 360-461-0610 or by email at [email protected]
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].