By Alisha McDarris
For Hometown News
PORT ST. LUCIE -- A Port St. Lucie man is showing his support for a local organization by heading out to the Intracoastal and paddling for a cause.
It all started when Russell Hernandez, 51, spent some time at Molly's House in Stuart a few years ago during hospital procedures for his broken neck and other related issues.
It was their care and kindness that prompted him to grab his paddleboard and get wet in order to raise money for the organization.
As soon as Mr. Hernandez started feeling better he threw together plans for a 300-mile paddleboard trek from Jacksonville to Miami to raise awareness for all that Molly's House does by offering affordable, temporary accommodations for patients and their families receiving medical care on the Treasure Coast.
Unfortunately, waters were rough when he planned to begin his journey at the end of November and he was forced to move his launch site to Cocoa Beach. The first leg of his journey brought him 120 miles to PGA Blvd. and now Russell is taking a much deserved breather as he rests, recuperates and rallies for support.
"I'm testing the waters with my own health," Mr. Hernandez said.
He's still suffering from muscle spasms and memory loss due to his multiple surgeries and health conditions, but he was determined to get out there and do everything he could for Molly's House while he was feeling as good as he has in years.
The first 120 miles were rough with cold, windy mornings and rough water, "But I wouldn't take it back," Mr. Hernandez said.
Even though he is taking a week or two to rest, he's dedicated to getting back out on the water, no matter what, certain he can handle another 120 miles.
"My mind is stronger than my body," he said.
Giving back is important to him, especially during the holiday season.
"I wanted to repay the people who helped me," Mr. Hernandez said.
He hopes to spur others on to be generous, too, encouraging them to show their support of what he's doing by donating to Molly's House.
"I was astounded when he called and wanted to do it," said Louise Murtaugh, executive director at Molly's House. "Here's someone we were able to help and he wants to give back and that's really awesome for us."
Mr. Hernandez's plan is to be back out on the water with his son, Zak Hernandez, 17, this weekend, completing the last leg of his journey from PGA to Haulover Beach in Miami.
Donors can support his cause by giving to Molly's House at www.mollyshouse.org or sending a check to Molly's House at 430 S.E. Osceola St., Stuart, FL 34994.