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Ontario man canoes across country, ‘bringing light to a broader group of veterans’

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Voyageur and trusty canine paddle across the country to raise awareness for PTSD

Post by Guest on Sat 05 Aug 2017, 11:08

Voyageur and trusty canine paddle across the country to raise awareness for PTSD

Mike Ranta and Spitzii — 'the greatest dog in Canada' — are paddling for more than 200 days

CBC News Posted: Aug 04, 2017 4:24 PM CT Last Updated: Aug 04, 2017 4:24 PM CT

Mike Ranta and Spitzii, a nine-year-old Finnish spitz, are paddling across Canada to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder. (David Jackson/Submitted )

A modern-day voyageur and explorer — and his faithful companion, Spitzii the dog — are crossing Canada in a canoe.

Mike Ranta, who is from Ontario, is on his third coast-to-coast voyage with his trusty companion, but this trip is special — it's both celebrating Canada 150, and raising awareness and money for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Last year, Ranta paddled for 200 days from Vancouver to Cape Breton in honour of veterans. He said along the way, he learned about the impacts of PTSD on veterans and first responders.

"I really wanted to pay homage to those people. It's a real true Canadian in my eyes that runs into a place where most people would run away from in order to help somebody," he said, speaking to CBC News from his boat about 10 kilometres away from Fort Alexander, Man., which is approximately 100 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

Spitzii is a nine-year-old Finnish spitz, described by Ranta as 'the greatest dog in Canada, quite possibly the world.' (David Jackson/Submitted )

Ranta said the most Canadian way he could think of to honour those people was to hop back in his canoe with Spitzii, a nine-year-old Finnish spitz.

"He's the greatest dog in Canada, quite possibly the world. He is an amazing pup, he's my best friend, my chief navigator and my bear scarer," Ranta said with a laugh.

While the original intent was to once again make it to Cape Breton, Ranta said the wind has set the travelling duo about 1,000 kilometres back on their plan.

"The weather has been really unpredictable for us. We've had some very close calls with a tornado, once with a water spout," he said.

Mike Ranta, who is from Ontario, is on his third coast-to-coast voyage with his trusty companion. (David Jackson/Submitted )

So they will now see how far they can get in 214 days, planning to finish their journey at the end of October.

Ranta said they have seen Canada showcase its nature and beauty, but what he has really appreciated are the people he meets along the way.

"You can just imagine what the voyageur went through, coming around some of these points and bays and seeing a firelight in the distance of a bay and knowing that there is help and good people there," he said.

"Talking with people is definitely the highlight of this trip, talking with the kids and inspiring others to get in the canoe and enjoy that nature that we have as a nation," he added.


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Cross-country paddler to lay Remembrance Day wreath woven from 'pieces' of Canada

Post by Guest on Fri 11 Nov 2016, 06:05

Cross-country paddler to lay Remembrance Day wreath woven from 'pieces' of Canada

Mike Ranta, 45, recently wrapped up canoe trip that took him from Vancouver to Nova Scotia

CBC News Posted: Nov 11, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Nov 11, 2016 5:00 AM ET

Mike Ranta, 45, will lay a wreath made from 'pieces' of Canada he collected as he paddled from B.C. to Nova Scotia.

A northern Ontario man who recently wrapped up a cross-Canada canoe trip will visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa on Friday, where he'll lay a wreath made of branches and leaves from each province he paddled through on his journey.

The Royal Canadian Legion has invited Mike Ranta, 45, to lay the wreath during official Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Ranta padelled from Vancouver to Dominion, N.S. — along with his dog Spitzii — and dedicated the journey to Canada's veterans.

Solo paddler Mike Ranta completes cross-country journey

The seasoned paddler said he stopped at as many legions as he could along the way, where he listened to veterans' stories, thanked them for their service and asked them to sign his canoe.

Northwestern Ontario paddler Mike Ranta said he and his dog Spitzii encountered some frosty mornings on the last leg of their journey, but overall were blessed with unseasonably warm weather on the East Coast.

"I took a piece of each province as I went across ... there's some willow in there, some birch, some grass, some reeds," said Ranta.

Ranta is not a veteran, but his brother served in Bosnia, and many of his close friends back home in Atikokan, Ont. are also veterans.

He kept the bits and pieces of Canada's great outdoors in a plastic container in his canoe during his 200 day journey, which wrapped up on Oct. 18.

The wreath is made from bits of twigs and branches that Mike Ranta gathered in every province he paddled through.

"I've got so many people in mind ... when I lay this there," said Ranta.

"It seems like every twig represents a little bit of something … it looks pretty rough, but you know, there's a lot of heart and soul, and love, and compassion."

Ranta's efforts are "very much appreciated," said Bruce Poulin, a veteran and official with the Royal Canadian Legion.

"My understanding is that everywhere he's been, veterans have come out and shook his hand and taken the time to express their appreciation for his efforts," said Poulin.

"There's going to be a lot of emotion that's for sure," said Ranta, speaking about Friday's ceremony.

"We did it for appreciation of our veterans, saying thanks to our men and women of our Armed Forces ... and I really wanted to say thank you to them."


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Ontario man ends 200-day canoe trip at Dominion Beach

Post by Guest on Wed 19 Oct 2016, 06:28

Ontario man ends 200-day canoe trip at Dominion Beach.

Oct 18, 2016

DOMINION - It was a typical Cape Breton welcome.

Mike Ranta canoed into Dominion Beach on Tuesday afternoon with his dog Spitzii at the helm, ending a 200-day journey — and four million paddles — for the pair from the west coast.

“This is amazing,” Ranta said, while stepping out of his canoe to approximately 150 cheering people, some who brought their children and others with their dogs.

Members of the Dominion fire department and the Cape Breton Regional Police were also on hand.

“I came out today to meet him because of what he has done for the veterans.”

Ranta said he couldn’t think of a better place to end his journey across the country than at Dominion Beach in Cape Breton.

“To me it’s the jewel in Canada’s crown, it’s an amazing place to be.”

Ranta started his journey on April 1 at the Fisherman's Memorial in Steveston, B.C., and his goal was to “paddle and portage longer, faster and further than any person in history, using the spirit of Canada's veterans as fuel.”

He completed a similar journey two years ago and he added the trek was completed for the Canadian veterans.

“I can’t imagine what Canada would be like if they hadn’t of been successful,” he said. “I really wanted to say thanks to that generation because we are losing them fast. They are a generation of true inspiration and Canadian grit.”

Ranta, who spoke of his love for veterans as soon as he landed in Dominion, said it sickens him to hear there are veterans living on the streets.

“We have to take better care of our veterans, we made a promise and have to keep it.”

Along his journey he has had veterans sign his canoe.

Ranta describes Spitzii,  his eight-year-old Finnish Spitz,,, as “a navigator, campsite soldier and true companion,” commenting he wouldn’t have taken a single step of this gruelling, yet exhilarating expedition, without him.

He said Spitzii's bush smarts and instincts alerted him to any danger — everything from wild animals to unpredictable weather that included torrential rains.

“We’ve seen 18 bears and two mountain lions on this trip,” he said.

He said they also saw a moose and two of her calves and then rescued one of the calves from Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appelle River.

“One fell in the river and got caught in a log and was drowning, I actually had to pull him out by his ears.”

Now that his journey has ended, Ranta plans to stay in Cape Breton for a week and meet veterans.

“I just want to say thank you to the Cape Breton people, everyone has been so positive and so kind.”

He said any money raised on the trip will be shared equally between the Atikokan Legion branch 145 and the Atikokan Youth Centre.

Monica McNeil of Dominion, and her husband Mickey, lived for a few years in Atikokan, Ont., the small mining town which Ranta calls home.

“What caught my interest is that he is doing this for the veterans,” McNeil said. “My father Greg MacNeil is a Second World War veteran.”

She said when she saw Ranta was ending his trip at Dominion Legion branch 78, she knew they had to do something special for him.

She said many legion members and a lunch were waiting for Ranta at the legion Tuesday.

“He has been collecting signatures of veterans on his canoe, there will be a lot of veterans there to sign it.”

Charles Starzyczny, a resident of Dominion, was in the crowd at Dominion Beach waiting to welcome Ranta.


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Ontario man canoes across country, ‘bringing light to a broader group of veterans’

Post by Guest on Tue 10 May 2016, 19:57

LETHBRIDGE – For 40 days, it’s been a man, his dog and a canoe on a mission to raise awareness and offer thanks to Canada’s veterans.

“He’s amazing. He’s my navigator, my bear scarer, my campsite soldier and bar none my best friend,” Mike Ranta said.

Ranta and his dog, Spitzii, are paddling from coast to coast, making every stroke count. He’s on the cross-country adventure to send a message to Parliament Hill.

“I took on this journey to raise awareness for our veterans and to just say ‘thank you’ to these guys,” Ranta added.

Ranta and his dog are stopping at legions across the country, meeting veterans along the way.

“We gotta help them. That’s my passion here right now, this is why I want to do this, and show appreciation, shake their hands, write their names down on my canoe,” Ranta said.
His efforts aren’t going unnoticed. Legion members like Jeff Alden see his desire to improve veterans affairs and say change is imminent.

“They may be doing stuff that they feel is right for veterans. I think a lot of it is the perception of what’s right as opposed to what is really needed.”

Ranta knows firsthand how important support is for those who serve the country.

“I have a brother who’s been in the services, he’s a good man. He came back and he’s got a touch of the PTSD and I’d like to see more help for these guys. Five per cent of the homeless people on the streets are veterans, and that’s not Canadian,” he added.

Wayne King is a veteran himself, who now helps other veterans find the services they need. He said he is touched by Ranta’s desire to bring change.

“He’s an individual who’s responded to a situation that he’s seen within his own family, which is certainly applaudable,” King said. “But in doing so, I think he’s bringing light to a broader group of veterans in our society that certainly need help.”

Ranta set sail on April 1 from Vancouver, B.C., battling some rough waters, steep terrain and even wildlife at times. It will take him months to get to his final destination, Cape Breton, N.S.–where he’s hoping to arrive Sept. 29.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m really looking forward to getting around the next bend in the river, and just meet new people along the way,” Ranta said.


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