L to R: Quinton Couch (Miami '17), Jackson Gray, Tyler Brezina.
L to R: Quinton Couch (Miami '17), Jackson Gray, Tyler Brezina. Photo: Scott Kissell

Trio surpasses $7,000 fundraising goal, expects to finish river journey Thursday

By Margo Kissell, university news and communications

They’ve been counting down the number of days until they reach their destination, where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi.

Three more to go.

Miami University senior Jackson Gray, Quinton Couch (Miami ’17) and friend Tyler Brezina expect to complete the 981-mile Ohio River journey on Thursday at Cairo, Ill. It will be day 40, which is how long they expected it to take when they embarked on the adventure in a canoe and kayak in Pittsburgh on May 20.

Last week, they surpassed their $7,000 fundraising goal for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and are hoping to reach $10,000 before the journey ends. (They were at $7,930 Monday afternoon.)

In a video posted Wednesday from Owensboro, Ky., to their public Race the River 2017 Facebook page, Gray said the journey has been incredible but “pretty rough.” The team remains strong, he said, although “we’re getting beat up by the sun and weather.”

The men, who believe they will become the youngest on record to complete the journey, have been drawing attention for their effort.

Steve Siple (Miami ’90), chair of the AFSP national board, recently tweeted, “…I am so very moved to see this story from my alma mater. Well done gentlemen!”

Gray, a senior from Canton majoring in civic and regional development, reiterated the purpose of the journey is to give hope to people “who felt they lost everything (and) to give people hope that there’s a way out of things you’re dealing with.”

Gray, who lost his best friend from high school to suicide in 2014, urged people to support those who are struggling with depression or other mental health issues. He also hopes that those who need help are not afraid to seek it.

“Have that conversation,” he said. “There is true strength in being able to admit that you’re hurting.”