It’s been seven months since grandma went missing.
Most families would be horrified if their beloved matriarch hadn’t been seen for over half a year, but the Walters family of Portland, Maine isn’t too concerned. They know exactly where Grandmother Deb is: In a yellow kayak off the coast of South Carolina heading toward Guatemala.
The 63-year old grandmother set off in July of last year from Maine’s Royal River on a yearlong trip that will end in Guatemala City, all to benefit the children of a community living in the capital city’s garbage dump.
Walters, a retired scientist, has set out on this journey to raise money and support for Safe Passage, a Maine-based nonprofit that provides early nutrition, education and health services to about 600 children in Guatemala City. Walters is making frequent stops on her journey south to raise awareness and funding for her organization.
"I have met so met so many new people along the way, but also reconnected with so many old friends," Walters told local media during a stop in the Palmetto state. "I have three states and two countries left, and I am amazed by how much support I have received so far."
Walters became involved with Safe Passage after visiting Guatemala nine years ago and soon started volunteering for them. Her goal for the trip is to raise enough money so that Safe Passage can add a third grade to its school, which will cost around $320,000.
"People say, 'Why not write a book, or have a bake sale or a golf tournament?' And I say. 'Because I want to combine my passion for the children with my slightly unusual passion for long distance kayaking,'” she told MPBN News in Maine.
Walters nautical travel plan is to stick close to shore as possible until she reaches New Jersey and then use the Intracoastal Waterway for her trip down to Florida. From the Sunshine State, she will hitch a ride on a sailboat to Belize.
There will be no speed records set on this journey as Walters, who suffers from both arthritis and tendinitis, plans to travel about 13.7 miles per day, a low estimate that tries to account for sick days.
Walters has so far kayaked 65 percent of her journey and has raised nearly $120,000 – about 79 percent of her $150,000 fundraising goal. She expects to be in Guatemala in May of 2015.
The former scientist is also no nautical novice as she has made a long-distance kayak trip. She has previously kayaked solo in the Arctic, around Hudson Bay and the coast of Nova Scotia.
"She's mentally so tough that that's what's gonna, you know, make it work," Chris Percival, Walters' husband, told MPBN News.