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Woman Paddling Length of N.J. Coast Enters Ocean County

Margo Pellegrino is raising money for the Surfrider Foundation and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Those hanging around the shores of Barnegat Bay on Tuesday may  notice a stand-up paddler heading north up the waterway. They are witnessing Margo Pellegrino's attempt to paddle the length of the Jersey Shore -- 127 miles from Cape May to Sandy Hook.

Pellegrino left Cape May about 7:50 a.m. Monday and by 1 p.m. Tuesday, had made her way into Ocean County, reaching the midpoint of Long Beach Island in Surf City. She's expected to complete her journey later today.

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To track her progress in real time: Click here
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The paddle itself is a fund-raiser for those two organizations, where supporters are asked to “sponsor” a mile segment of the Jersey coast by donating to either organization through her website at www.miami2maine.com. Her Internet address takes its name from the first coastal paddle Margo had undertaken, from Miami to Maine in summer 2007 via outrigger canoe.

Pellegrino is paddling with a water-proof, hands-free cell phone, and took a call from a Patch reporter as she paddled past. The conversation was barely audible, but she made one thing clear: She was enjoying the steady southwest winds that were pushing her along on her trip north.

The board Pellegrino is paddling was donated by Starboard SUP and will be raffled off Sept. 10 at the Surfrider Foundation/Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue Project in Brigantine. Proceeds of the raffle will be split 50/50 between Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) and Surfrider Emerald Coast.

Following that journey, Margo has continued to make long coastal paddles with the goal of educating as many people as possible about the problems of the ocean, and what can be done now to make reverse this decline.  She has also paddled the Gulf coast from north of Miami to New Orleans in 2009 and from Seattle to San Diego last summer.

“Why shift gears and combine the ocean mission with a childhood cancer mission?” Margo said in a news release. “Well, I’ve got a good friend who’s living what is every parent’s worst nightmare, a child with cancer, diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, and not a day goes by when I don’t think about her and her family. If given the chance to help, how could I not in some way help them and others going through the same horrible ordeal.  There are many factors that contribute to the rising rates of neuroblastoma, and Dr. John Maris of Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is working on the genetic markers for the disease in order to better tailor treatments. It’s our hope that there will eventually be a cure. One never knows where a cure might come from. AZT is a chemical copy of a chemical produced by an ocean-living sponge. What other cures might be found in the ocean? What discoveries might we miss if we continue along this path of ocean degradation and destroy potential cures before they can be discovered?”

The other beneficiary of the paddle is Surfrider Emerald Coast, in support of its Gulf Beach Water Quality Monitoring Program.  The program was established in response to the minimal efforts made by state and federal agencies to monitor against the effects of the Gulf oil spill last year. Local surfers and swimmers have suffered from burning eyes and mouths, blistering noses and have developed acid-type rashes since the spill. Surfrider’s monitoring program – funded by individual donations – was established to help identify what chemicals are in the water that might be causing these symptoms. More info about SF Emerald Coast Chapter’s water testing program can be found through links on Margo’s website.

Margo is carrying a GPS transmitter and her progress can be tracked online as she makes her way up the coast. 

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