Rochester man portaging for suicide prevention

(ABC 6 NEWS) – A Rochester man is walking across southern Minnesota with a canoe on his back.

Evan Hansen is portaging with a purpose.

"People do fundraisers all the time. People hike for causes all the time. Why not portage," said Hansen.

He has loaded up his canoe and backpack and is walking in honor of those lost to suicide.

"I had four people in different areas of my life die by suicide, and I thought enough was enough," said Hansen.

The canoe he is carrying is filling up with names.

"Since starting the expedition, I’ve been adding about a hundred names a week," said Hansen.

Hansen has been meeting people from southern Minnesota too.

"I have people who will stop me on the side of the road and ask what I’m doing. When I tell them what the names are for,
they almost start to cry sometimes. And that’s always a really good reminder of just how many lives this touches," said Hansen.

The journey is taking him on more than a 300-mile hike across southern Minnesota.

"Eight to twelve miles a day. Lately, I’ve been getting stronger, so I’ve been doing ten to twelve, maybe thirteen miles a day," said Hansen.

His original plan was to walk the Superior Hiking Trail, but the wildfires forced a change.

"Even though I had to reroute due to the wildfires, I thought I should keep my promise and keep the milage the same," said Hansen. He added, "A typical portage is lake to lake, river to river. I’m going from person to person. Community to community."

As his porage draws into its final days, he hopes his message is clear.

"Carrying a canoe 300 miles across the state? That’s what a burden looks like. When a person thinks they’re a burden and thinks they’re better off not being on this earth anymore? They’re truly not a burden," said Hansen.

Hansen has raised more than $20,000 in online donations to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The final total will be announced when his portage is completed.

To donate, click here.