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Two men canoe Mississippi River; raise awareness for disabilities

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL) - Two men living with physical disabilities are paddling down the Mississippi River to raise awareness for those with similar conditions.

Nate Denofre was born without both of his legs because of amniotic band syndrome; a rare birth defect. However, he found strength by staying active and spending time doors.

"A lot of people think they can't do a lot of things but they can," said Denofre. "It's just very hard. Like putting up a boat or setting up a tent or even just going for a walk in the park."

Denofre founded the non-profit, Courage Incorporated, which allows people living with physical disabilities to go on outdoor excursions.

In early May, Denofre partnered with his friend and Iraqi war veteran, Don Jokinen, to travel the length of the Mississippi River. The pair began their journey in Lake Itsaca, MN, and their goal is to reach the Gulf of Mexico.

"You don't have to travel down the Mississippi River or have 200-day adventures in the woods," said Denofre. "Get outside and push yourself every day and you'll feel a little better."

Jokinen, who is also differently-abled, said connecting with nature helped adjust to civilian life after returning from military service.

"This is probably one of the toughest things I've done, even Iraq. That's on a totally separate level," said Jonkinen. "And this is on a totally separate level because of what it offers. You're not out there defending, you're out there fighting for yourself."

Denofre said he hopes their journey will help erase the stigma surrounding those living with a disability.

"From my point of view, we're all disabled. With the word "disabled," it isn't able you to do something you should already be able to do," Denofre. "In my opinion, fear is the biggest disability. Because it disables us all in some way from doing something we should be able to do."

You can follow along the pair's journey by clicking this link.

Ashley Scott

Reporter, Dubuque

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