Homemade Raft Makes 1,700 Mile Mississippi Trip | Quimby's Cruising Guide

According to a recent news release by Velocity Public Affairs, on Tuesday, October 27th, Spare Key Executive Director Erich Mische [returned] home to St. Paul after a 1,700-mile, 56-day, ten-state journey down the Mississippi River on a 50-year old homemade raft christened the “S.S. Hail Mary.” During the journey, Spare Key became registered in all 50 states and will have the ability to help families across the country with the financial support they need to pay major bills when faced with critical illnesses or serious injuries.

“This trip was monumental for both Spare Key and myself. At Spare Key, our mission is to help as many families as possible. Being registered in all 50 states allows for us to make a bigger impact all across the country,” said Erich Mische. “On the trip, I was able to share Spare Key’s mission and awareness with countless incredible individuals. I am certain that we will be able to help more families during difficult times because of this journey.”

Founded in 1997, the organization has expanded their national footprint immensely in recent years, and through their “Help Me Bounce” platform, Spare Key helps families “bounce back” so that they can focus on what truly matters during those difficult times: their loved ones. At his last stop in Baton Rouge, Mische registered Louisiana as the 50th state where Spare Key can operate.

Mische, who admits he is “…afraid of the dark and scared of wild animals…”, lived, worked, and slept on the raft when not navigating the mighty Mississippi. He drifted slowly through the middle of America spreading Spare Key’s commitment to help families “Bounce and Not Break.”

“What started out as a way to keep Spare Key afloat became so much more. Along this journey, I was able to build lasting relationships and learn important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life,” stated Mische. “Each person is fighting their own battles. Even if people do not directly need the help of Spare Key, I want them to see that there is always hope during difficult times. The people I met along the way have made a lasting impact on my life and I hope I was able to do the same for them.”

During the journey, Mische encountered countless mishaps and challenges. Operating a 50-year-old pontoon with a garden shed attached comes with its own unique challenges, but then add finicky motors, locks and dams, never-ending river traffic, and, to top it all off, Hurricane Delta!

“There is no way to predict the challenges you will encounter on a trip like this. You learn really quick how to navigate the river when you’re the smallest boat on it,” chuckled Erich Mische. “I never thought I would know how to pump water out of 50-year old pontoon tubes, jimmy rig a pontoon motor, operate locks and dams alongside barges, or avoid a hurricane, but I sure do now.”

Individuals can still support the “Hope on the River” journey through direct donations at www.sparekey.org/donate or by texting the word “RIVER” to 52000 to donate $20!

Spare Key has served over 4,000 families with nearly $4 million in housing and housing-related expenses since it was established in Minnesota 23 years ago. The organization is currently registered to serve families through its www.HelpMeBounce.org platform in all 50 states. “Spare Key, like thousands of non-profits, has been severely impacted by the effect of COVID-19 on the economy,” said Mische. “Every event scheduled for this summer, except for one, has been cancelled or postponed. Waiting for something better to happen to change the trajectory of the troubled economy’s impact on charitable giving is not an option. This once-in-a-lifetime journey was my way of ensuring that Spare Key can continue to help families across the country.”

About Spare Key

Spare Key is a non-profit that serves families with a critically ill or seriously injured family member. No matter the illness, no matter the injury, no matter the income. Spare Key helps families “Bounce and Not Break” through their Help Me Bounce platform, harnessing the power of crowdfunding to connect thousands of families directly to donors.