Kayak racer to cross Lake Pontchartrain to honor friend

Fellow Monsanto employee recently died of cancer

Michelle Stuckey
September 09, 2010 at 2:42 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Richard Savoi will paddle 24 miles across Lake Pontchartrain to raise money for the family of Jim Bueche, who recently passed away from cancer.
Richard Savoi will paddle 24 miles across Lake Pontchartrain to raise money for the family of Jim Bueche, who recently passed away from cancer.
What started out as a fundraiser to fight cancer is now a memorial to a late friend, father and husband.

Jim Bueche, 51, was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in January and immediately began tests and treatments in an effort to beat the cancer.

When his friend and co-worker, Richard Savoie, 53, heard about the expenses the Bueche family was incurring after only six months of treatment, he decided to do something to help. The long-time canoe and kayak racer and Bayou Gauche native decided to paddle 24 miles across Lake Pontchartrain to raise money for Jim’s family.

But Jim passed away on Aug. 21 before he could see Richard cross the finish line.

Now Savoie’s Sept. 11 paddle across Lake Pontchartrain will be in honor and celebration of Jim’s life.

“Anyone is welcome to join us to remember and celebrate Jim’s life,” Savoie said. “The proceeds will now go to his wife to use where she sees fit.”

Savoie has been an avid canoe, kayak and pirogue racer for 18 years, with his longest race being 42 miles on the Mississippi River. He has completed that race six times.

He will leave from Mandeville Harbor on the north shore and will finish at Lake Park boat launch in Kenner on the south shore. During the race, friends and family will gather on the south shore and serve jambalaya and drinks.

Savoie is raising money by offering a pool on how long it will take him to make it across the lake.

“People are always selling raffle tickets, so I thought this would be something different and would raise a person’s interest knowing that I had to accomplish something and they had to select a time they think it will take me to make the crossing,” Savoie said.

The pool covers a time span of three-and-a-half to seven hours broken down into five-second increments. Gamblers can choose one time slot for $5, three for $10 or seven for $20. The person with the closest time without going over will win a $500 cash prize, but $1,000 worth of other prizes will be put into a drawing afterward. All the prizes have been donated, so all of the proceeds from the event will go directly to the Bueche family.

Those interested in betting in the pool can contact Savoie at (504)512-8544.

So far, Savoie has raised about $6,000.

When Savoie told Jim about his plan to raise money for the cancer treatment, Jim was shocked.

“He became very emotional, telling me he couldn’t believe anyone thought enough of him to do something like this,” Savoie said. “This has really made me realize that we often don’t let people know we care until it’s too late.”

Regina Bueche, Jim’s wife, said that the family was in complete awe when they heard Savoie’s plan.

“It got (Jim) all choked up because he was just deeply touched that his co-workers were thinking of him and trying to do anything they could to help him,” Regina said. “It was just a touching moment that they were thinking about us constantly.”

Regina and Jim have four sons: Jeremy, 31, Jeffery, 25, Justin, 14, and Jacob, 9.

Savoie worked with Jim at Monsanto in Luling for the past 13 years.

Even though Jim can’t be at the finish line like he hoped, his family will be there in strong numbers to thank Savoie and celebrate Jim’s life.

View other articles written Michelle Stuckey

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