Minnesota man completes cross-state portage for suicide prevention

FOUNTAIN CITY, Wis. (WKBT) — Evan Hansen carried a canoe for 313 miles over the course of 35 days, traveling from South Dakota to Wisconsin, in honor of suicide prevention.

The purpose for his portage came to Hansen after he lost four people, all from different circles in his life, to suicide.

“After the one that hit closest to home passed away, I kind of had that idea—I thought, ‘Oh! The idea I had about portaging really far: This is the perfect representation of something that’s invisible,'” Hansen said.

After 645,000 steps, Hansen’s journey ended at Kinstone in Fountain City. He hopes his trek helps save lives.

Hansen carried just his canoe and a pack, which together weighed roughly 30 pounds.

“We’re given strengths in our life, and we choose how to give them back,” Hansen said. “If this is the way to spend some of my strength up until I rebuild it back up again—that’s a price I’d gladly pay many times over.

The canoe, covered in 645 names of people who died from suicide, started with 181 names. The names were added gradually throughout the trip, some from a form online and some from visitors as he traveled across the state. Hansen said he doesn’t know the stories of each name on his canoe.

“I have no idea—anything about those people—except for the fact that they left too soon. And that’s all I need to know,” Hansen said.

Averaging 10 miles a day, Hansen’s trip also served as a fundraiser for the Southeast Minnesota National Alliance on Mental Illness. Executive Director Sean Kinsella said Hansen approached them in January to partner up and fundraise. According to Hansen, the fundraiser on 4giving will be up through at least Oct. 31.

Monica Yeadon, the program director for NAMI Southeast Minnesota, helped Hansen manage his Portage for a Purpose Facebook page, and reply to messages as he traveled. Yeadon said many people felt compelled to open up to Hansen through his page.

“A lot of stories of loss,” Yeadon said. “A lot have been very heart wrenching.”

Evan completed his journey to Kinstone silently, to a crowd of onlookers. He hopes his journey helps offer people a sense of closure and peace.

“People can come out here and walk the final steps that I walked and spend some time here to understand they aren’t alone,” Hansen said. “There’s at least one person out there who has– and will continue to go– great lengths for them.”

“I hope that Evan saved at least one life. And I’m pretty confident he’s saved more than that,” Yeadon said.

EDIT 7:14 p.m.: Hansen’s journey was 313 miles, not 331.

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