Canoe run honors Messerly memory

The inaugural Bruce Messerly Have a Heart Canoe Run will be held on Saturday, Aug. 17. Shuttles will haul Allegheny Outfitter canoes and participants to the Kinzua Dam, starting at 10:15 a.m.. The event is being organized by Erin Eastman.

After canoeing back to the Eagles Club on the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Hemlock Road, there will be a picnic lunch, 50-50 raffles, a Chinese auction with a DJ providing music.

Autographed items from “Rusted Root,” one of Bruce’s favorite bands will be raffled to help raise money.

The family-oriented eventin honor of Bruce Messerly Jr., who died earlier this year, will benefit the Dr. Bill Neches Heart Camp for Kids. The camp is held annually for over 150 youths between the ages of 8 and 16 who have heart conditions and spend nearly a week at the camp, with activities like swimming and fishing that one would expect, and others that are exclusive to Heart Camp.

The childrens’ doctors and nurses are there, but there are no tests, pain or medical procedures. Instead, the young patients can ask them about their heart conditions and get simple answers. The camp counselors have also lived through heart procedures, and they share stories about coping with their conditions.

In this environment, campers learn to view the medical staff as friends, while the medical staff learns more about each child’s personality and limitations.

The camp is co-sponsored by Childrens’ Hospital of Pittsburgh UPMC and the American Heart Association.

Bruce Messerly Sr. said, “Bruce was one of the first campers in 1991, and he loved it. Over the years he worked his way up from a camper, to a junior counselor and then became a staff member.”

“Bill Neches was Bruce’s friend as well as his doctor, and plans on attending (the canoe run) in the future.”

The camp is held at Camp Ko-o-kwee, a YMCA facility north of Pittsburgh, and the children who attend come from all over the U.S. and Canada. It is the only heart camp of its kind.