The Water Warriors are men and women from all walks of life who have two things in common; their love of water sports and their desire to help people. The Water Warriors participate in a 5-day, 450-mile endurance ride on personal watercraft (wave runner type machines) starting at Mackinaw City, riding the entire length of Lake Huron, the St. Clair River and culminating at Harsens Island, to raise money for the athletes of Special Olympics Michigan. The Water Warriors Personal Watercraft Endurance Ride began in 1991, an idea born by a member of the Wertz Warrior Snowmobile Endurance Ride, who believed overcoming the obstacles of Michigan's vast waterways and weather conditions could be conquered.
The annual five day trek takes place the end of July. Each day has pre-planned fuel stops, rest stops, evening activities and overnight accommodations. There are three categories of volunteers: The riders, land support, and water support.
• Riders commit to raising at least $1,500 for riding all 5 days. Commitments for riding less than 5 days also available.
• Shorter rides and financial commitments are available.
• The Water Warriors are responsible for paying their own expenses on the trip.
• A rider commits to raising a minimum donation of $1,500 and riding his/her machine from Mackinaw City to Harsens Island. The $1,500 can be generated in many ways. Some riders solicit funds through their business associates, others have pig roasts, spaghetti dinners, golf tournaments, bingo's, steak outs, etc.
• Members who raise their money and do not have a PWC or cannot ride will be offered a spot to ride on a Support Boat.
• The water support personnel are in boats with two to six riders assigned to each boat, responsible for the safety of their riders.
• The land support crew follow along on land assisting the riders at each fuel stop, docking, and transporting luggage and equipment.
The Water Warriors give Special Olympics Michigan athletes rides on their PWC's at stops along the ride.
"Riding the waves is a physical challenge, certainly, but nothing in comparison to the every day survival of a Special Olympic athlete. To come into port and see that appreciation for our efforts, to give a ride to an athlete on my machine, and to watch the smiling faces and listening to the cheers of the athletes on the support boats makes every muscle ache I experience, every drop of water that I swallow, and all the time I spend raising funds worth it. It's like winning the lottery over and over. Happiness and the giving spirit in this organization is contagious." - Donna, rider
"When I think of the Water Warriors and what it means to me I think the real warriors are not the ones that are riding the jet ski's, [but] the athletes we are riding for. Their challenge isn't just the one-week 400-miles on the water. Their challenge is every day of their life and they never give up, they never get discouraged and they just take it every day like a Warrior! So if doing something as simple as riding a jet ski for over 400 miles to help raise money for athletes so they can do something they enjoy and brings them a sense of pride, then I can't think of anything I would rather do!" - Bill, rider
"There are not words to describe seeing the smiles on the athletes faces at events and stops. You can't help but smile when you see their excitement and dedication when they are participating in Special Olympic games and the pride they take during the awards ceremonies." - Tracy, land support
"Last year was my first year as a Water Warrior and did I have an eye opener! On my journey with the Water Warriors we were able to join the athletes for dinner and mingle. We danced, we laughed, we talked, and hugged. It was an unforgettable evening and and unforgettable week for me. The athletes made me feel as special as they were. Joining this ride I thought about endurance and wondered if I could make it across the big lake. The endurance of this ride is nothing compared to the endurance of the athletes in their everyday lives. Let me tell you, they helped me as much as I helped them. I am proud and blessed to be a Water Warrior and am looking forward to the ride and seeing my new friends waiting for me at every harbor!" - Mary, rider
Water Warriors Board of Directors
Chairwoman: Ann Plegue
Vice Chairman: Tom Chauvin
Members: Jeff Doolin, Chris Johns, Dan Garon, Mary Rener, Wendy May