KALISPELL, Mont. — After years of service, four Flathead Valley veterans are trying to give back even more by raising money for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in an active way.
Kalispell disabled veteran Bob Sistok’s pontoon has seen many fishing adventures, but it’s about to embark on quite a journey.
"I called my buddy and said, ‘OK, I'll do the Mississippi River with you this year,’" said Sistok.
He said he wanted to use his pontoon and had one other condition.
"We raise money for St. Jude’s Children's Hospital," Sistok said.
Now four veterans are taking on over 1,100 miles of river to raise money for cancer research. Accompanying Sistock on the trip is disabled Army veteran Mark Johnson, Vietnam veteran Jerry Robinson and Army veteran Kenny Sunell.
Sistok served in the Marine Corps, but his time was cut short after receiving traumatic brain injuries. After he recovered he was stabbed in five times in an attempted robbery.
He suffers from seizures and said after he stopped taking the medication he was prescribed his life started turn around. He finally could float the Mississippi River like he has wanted to. He figured why not raise money for St. Jude’s while doing it.
"I'm hoping this can get as big as it can get,” Sistok told NBC Montana. “We are paying for the entire trip ourselves. So for the first time we wanted to have a fundraiser where every single penny went to where it was supposed to go."
"I'm just glad it's 100 percent going to them,” said Kenny Sunell.” These kids are heroes."
Sunell works for Walmart. He told NBC Montana they gave him the time off and pledged to donate to St. Jude’s the money for the hours he missed work while volunteering.
So far many local businesses have pledged money to the group of veterans who call themselves Dudes for St. Jude’s.
"It’s just an honor,” said Sistok. “I'm just an implement to get it done that's all."
Sistok told NBC Montana that cancer has affected his family and many others.
"It's amazing how many families have been affected by St. Jude’s just here in the county," Sistok said.
The charitable adventure does come with some sacrifices.
"There’s four veterans going down river, so it’s a month we are going to be away from our wives and families,” said Sistok. “It’s already worthwhile."
They leave at the end of June, but there is no end goal for the donations.
"As much as St. Jude's can get," said Sistok.
Sistok told NBC Montana no donation is too small. This is just the beginning of their journey.
If you would like to donate to their cause click here.