A soon-to-be University of Tampa senior is about to embark on a journey of a lifetime; paddling the entire length of the Mississippi River.
Hector Manley is calling his 2,300 mile journey “Paddling for a Purpose.”
Manley, a double amputee, wants to raise $50,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project and the Wheelchair Foundation by the time he reaches New Orleans at the end of the summer.
“For me, I’m doing this because I do want to help other people and I know how it feels to be helped,” he said.
Manley was 11 years old he was playing with friends in a garbage dump when an earthquake hit El Salvador.
He was trapped in burning rubble for about 30 minutes until a good Samaritan helped dig him out.
“I was in shock, so I couldn’t feel the pain, but I just knew with the flames right next to me, it wasn’t a good thing,” he said.
Burned over 70 percent of his body, doctors were forced to amputate Manley’s legs.
He spent three months in a hospital until an American couple brought him to the United States to fit him with prosthetic legs.
“I didn’t know anything about the United States,” he said. “I didn’t know a single word of English.”
Manley learned English from cartoons and volunteerism from his adopted American family, which leads to his paddle for a purpose.
“You hear of people running across the country or biking across the country,” he said. “For me, it’s kayaking. I can’t run across the country or bike across it, but in this kayak I can go everywhere.”
Hector plans on leaving May 19th and reaching New Orleans September 1st.