City Briefing: Kayak-a-thon returns for 14th year on Sept. 11

  • Linda Pisano, retired prosecutor of crimes against children for the Northwestern district attorney’s office, center, sits on a bench dedicated in her honor Wednesday, outside the Hampshire County Children’s Advocacy Center in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/BRIAN STEELE


  • All Out Adventures program director Sue Tracy sends off about 55 participants in the AOA Kayak-a-thon from the Hatfield boat launch on the Connecticut River on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, to begin the second half of the 12-mile event which started in Sunderland and concluded in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2022 9:32:35 PM
Modified: 8/7/2022 9:32:18 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Kayak-a-thon will return next month for its 14th year of promoting accessible outdoor recreation, drawing people of all ages and abilities to the Connecticut River in an effort to raise $50,000 for the local nonprofit All Out Adventures.

On Sunday, Sept. 11, individuals or teams can paddle kayaks, canoes or standup paddle boards (SUPs) either 12 miles from Sunderland to Northampton, starting at 10 a.m., or five miles from Hatfield to Northampton starting at 12:30 p.m.

“It’s really kind of an incredible thing to see people of all abilities enjoying the great outdoors together,” All Out Adventures executive director Karen Foster said.

The last Kayak-a-thon was held in 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Foster said the inaugural event was in 2007, her first year on the job, when program director Sue Tracy considered commuting from Montague to Easthampton every day for a month by kayak to raise money for the organization; when word got around, about 15 people signed on to join her for a one-day fundraiser instead, and the Kayak-a-thon was born.

Now, Foster said, the event can accommodate about 100 people, which is “near capacity for what’s safe and reasonable on the river.”

Pre-registration is required by Sept. 6. Organizers said those who register before Aug. 29 can receive an “early bird discount.” The fundraising minimum is $150 for individuals and $500 for a four-person team.

All Out Adventures program participants can reserve a kayak, canoe or SUP for free, and community members can reserve one for a $35 fee to cover the transportation cost.

This year’s goal is to raise $50,000 for the nonprofit in order to support no- or low-fee outdoor recreation programs for people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and their families and friends. The organization said it runs 180 programs throughout the state; about 2,300 people participate in cycling, snowshoeing, ice skating, hiking and other offerings.

“Fifty-thousand is about what we need to keep doing what we’re doing,” Foster said, adding that money raised above the goal could be used for additional programming. “There’s a lot of potential riding on this event.”

Organizers are seeking volunteers for the Kayak-a-thon, including skilled tandem paddlers who can join a person with a disability on the river, people to help load/unload boats and other event staff. All Out Adventures is also seeking board members and general volunteers.

The rain date is Sept. 18. Those who need help registering can call (413) 584-2052 or email

‘Champion of children’ honored

In the backyard of the Hampshire County Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), 593 Elm St., a new bench bears a small plaque with the inscription, “Dedicated in honor of Linda Pisano, passionate child abuse prosecutor and champion of children.”

A Wednesday afternoon ceremony attended by Pisano, who retired in October from her role as lead prosecutor of crimes against children for the Northwestern district attorney’s office, recognized her service to the community and to the CAC.

“No one has done a better job to keep kids safe, and to inspire kids to know that they deserve better, than Linda Pisano,” Kara McElhone, the CAC’s executive director, said to applause from Pisano’s former colleagues and fellow child advocates. “We will sit on Linda’s bench and we will think of warriors. … We will sit here to gain courage and strength, and to think of you.”

District Attorney David Sullivan described Pisano as “the voice for children” and a “caring, compassionate attorney who fought for kids every step of the way.”

After Sullivan introduced his former assistant district attorney to the crowd of about 15 people — and a TV news camera — she joked that Sullivan had told her it would be only “a few people here, nothing happening.”

“That’s called a set-up,” Sullivan said.

When Pisano heard about the bench, she said, “I was pretty verklempt. It’s an amazing honor.”

“This place is special. Day after day, the heart-wrenching story that these walls hear” lead to prosecutions against child abusers, and the CAC provides wraparound “healing services” to the victims, Pisano said.

The CAC also serves children whose abuse cases do not involve the criminal justice system. Although it has a strong relationship with the DA’s office, the CAC is “kid-first, not prosecution-first,” McElhone said.

“In the words of William Shakespeare,” Pisano said, “thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.”

Celebrating Marty Nathan

A celebration of the life of Dr. Marty Nathan, the local progressive political activist who co-founded Climate Action Now and successfully sued members of the Ku Klux Klan, will be held Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. at Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity, 130 Pine St., Florence.

The Markham-Nathan Fund for Social Justice will honor its co-founder with a free event, featuring food and live music, that is open to the public. The celebration comes after Nathan’s death at the age of 70 in November 2021.

In 2020, Nathan retired from her work as a family physician at Baystate Brightwood Health Center in Springfield, but continued to treat undocumented and uninsured immigrants through the La Cliniquita program. Representatives of both organizations are expected to offer remarks, along with Nathan’s widower Elliot Fratkin, state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, and others.

Musical performances are scheduled by Paul Arslanian, Michel Moushabeck, Ben Grosscup, Xavier Luengo and more.

On Nov. 3, 1979, Nathan and her first husband, Dr. Michael Nathan, were with a group of activists protesting the Ku Klux Klan in Greensboro, N.C., when klansmen and American Nazis arrived and started shooting. Michael Nathan and four others were killed.

Six years later, Marty Nathan filed a groundbreaking lawsuit that ultimately found eight people, including shooters and police officials, liable for her husband’s death. The city of Greensboro paid Nathan $351,000, which she used to support survivors, victims’ families and social justice causes.

She moved to the Pioneer Valley in 1995.

Brian Steele can be reached at 
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