Living Lands and Waters

I had the great opportunity to hear Chad Pregracke from Living Lands and Waters speak about his river restoration project. I was very interested to hear from Chad because his accomplishments include motivating 70,000 volunteers (yes, I said volunteers) to remove 7 million pounds of garbage out of the Mississippi and surrounding rivers.  Amazing accomplishments!! 

So this is how the day started.  Since he was our guest, I introduced myself and offered Chad a cup of coffee. He thanked me but said he brought a Red Bull so he was prepared. So I thought “ok….a Red Bull.  Clearly he isn’t a morning person and he needs a little extra something.  That’s cool.”  I had no idea what I was in for. 

A presentation from Chad was nothing like one would expect. It was more like trying to cage a wild animal.  Upon introduction he ran through the seats like a prize-fighter getting into the ring.  There were fist bumps to the front row, shout outs to the back row and scattered high fives to anyone he could reach. There was also a little cardio….jogging in place and I’m pretty sure there were a few high kicks sprinkled in there too.  I think he had more than one Red Bull but I can’t be sure. 

At 15, Chad started shell diving in the Mississippi.  He would spend 6-8 hours a day in the water diving.  He described that he got air through a garden hose powered by a go-cart type engine.  The boat was basically anchored by his body weight and the boat moved swiftly along in the currents.  The river was black so he gathered shell-fish by feel and placed them into the basket that was fastened by a rope around his upper torso.  The currents of the Mississippi were so powerful that if you lifted your head into the current it could literally take you away.  Although the river was black, he could hear the sounds of the river.  The catfish in early June sound like frogs and drum fish click.  This is when Chad realized that the river was a living thing and that it needed cleaning.  No one else seemed to be doing anything about it so he decided to take on the challenge.

Living Lands and Waters has pulled 55,301 tires from rivers.

I’m not going to recount the story because it will be a dismal substitution for what I experienced.  However, you can hear it from Chad from his book or view a video by CBS. 

Chad had awesome energy and a fantastic sense of humor but he also had an incredibly moving story that brought me to tears several times throughout his presentation.  Yes, I said tears.  This coming from someone that believes there is no crying in foodservice!!  His story was incredibly empowering because he had a dream to clean up the rivers and continued to overcome obstacles to the point his dream became a reality.  Who does that these days?  Not many people.  And Chad started at age 17.  Think about what you were doing at 17.  Were you changing the world?  I wasn’t. 

Do you have a dream of something you want to accomplish?  Maybe it was something you started but gave up or never even had the courage to attempt.  Think of Chad, his story and the amazing impact he has had to the environment, communities and people’s health because he didn’t quit.  How are you going to spend your days on this Earth?

All images except the featured photo are from the Living Lands and Waters website.  I didn’t get any pictures because I was afraid Chad might ask me to join his antics. 


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