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Just another adventure of a lifetime

Chemainus resident Chad Deetken loves horseback riding, but June marks the first time he will be able to ride a horse across the Gobi Desert. - courtesy Chad Deetken
Chemainus resident Chad Deetken loves horseback riding, but June marks the first time he will be able to ride a horse across the Gobi Desert.
— image credit: courtesy Chad Deetken

When Helen Keller called life  a daring adventure or nothing, she must have had people like 69-year-old Chad Deetken in mind.

This Chemainus man's next daring adventure will give him an experience he'll never forget while benefiting poor children half a world away.

Deetken leaves June 4 for Mongolia to participate in the second-annual Gobi Gallop. He will join others in travelling 70 kilometres per day, for eight hours a day, over 10 days.

They will be on horseback, galloping across the steppes of Mongolia to benefit a charity called the Veloo Foundation.

The Mongolian ride brings an episode in his life full-circle. Forty-three years ago in November 1971, weather and the time of year forced him to abandon his lifelong dream of riding a camel caravan across Afghanistan and points beyond.

"I never really got over the disappointment of having missed out on that adventure," he said. "That is, until now."

The cost of his Gobi escapade, not including airfare is $2,000 U.S. Half of it will go to the foundation.

Julie Veloo created the foundation after discovering proud, self-sufficient Mongolians reduced to combing through garbage dumps after a brutal winter in 2009-10 killed nearly nine million of their animals and their nomadic way of life.

What touched Veloo the most was the plight of the children. Many helped their parents sift through garbage, while others, not much older than the younger siblings they were supervising, babysat in freezing, cold houses, without food or heat.

Today, as a result of her efforts and generous donations, the Children of the Peak Sanctuary supports 40 children from underprivileged families who have migrated from rural areas to Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar.

The children's social, intellectual and physical development is stimulated through group play, educational games and educating both children and parents about nutrition and hygiene.

The Gobi Gallop might count as the adventure of a lifetime for some. Not Deetken.

He has backpacked through Asia, climbed Mt. Everest to the base camp without a Sherpa, trekked up Mt. Kilimanjaro, and explored the jungles of Borneo. And he didn't stop there.

Despite not being able to tell a half-hitch from a halyard, Deetken built a sailboat in Los Angeles and on his maiden voyage sailed to a sweet little town, "down the coast."

Mazatlán, Mexico is 1,665 kilometres south of L.A.

"I sailed through quite a gale," he said.

Other adventures include three separate motorcycle rides to Guatemala and a honeymoon in a flatbed boat down a tributary of the Amazon. That trip lasted 40 days and nights.

Apparently the honeymoon isn't over yet. Wife Gwen Shrimpton, who shares his love of adventure, travelled with Deetken last year for the hike up Kangchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain.

Now Mongolia beckons.

"This may be my last kick at the can, but I said that about Kangchenjunga,' Deetken said, laughing. "I'm going to do it while I still can, it's best to make hay while the sun shines."

"I love challenges, I guess I'm a bit of a masochist" he said, "To tell you the truth, I can't really believe I'm still alive."

If you’re interested in making a tax-deductible donation to help pay for Deetken’s ride, click here. (According toVeloo, 100% of the donation goes to the children. Administration expenses are raised from other sources and grants.)

Follow the links to learn more about the Veloo Foundation, or check out Julie Veloo’s TED talk.

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