Ball State student joins 700-mile-long fishing trip to promote diversity

<p>Eddie Gill IV (left) and Justin Shupe (right) stand at Dress Plaza in Evansville, Indiana on the morning of their sendoff for &quot;Journey for a Cause.&quot; The trip concluded June 10 at Juana’s Pagodas in Navarre, Florida. <strong>Eddie Gill IV, Photo Provided</strong></p>

Eddie Gill IV (left) and Justin Shupe (right) stand at Dress Plaza in Evansville, Indiana on the morning of their sendoff for "Journey for a Cause." The trip concluded June 10 at Juana’s Pagodas in Navarre, Florida. Eddie Gill IV, Photo Provided

Justin Shupe, Ball State senior business administration and risk management major, was with two friends when the idea to travel by boat from Indiana to Florida was born. 

Shupe, his friend Eddie Gill IV, Gill’s family and Captain John Easley set sail June 1 on Parker Boats’ 2520 XLD Offshore Sport Cabin.

“About a year ago, we started planning [the trip] and that's kind of how it all just came together,” Shupe said. “We were fishing — it was just an idea — and then, we made it into what it is now.”

According to the “Journey for a Cause” website, “Journey for a Cause was inspired by [Gill’s] dream to promote diversity and inclusion within the boating, fishing and outdoor adventure community.”

Gill, a senior environmental science major at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, has received negative comments from others while fishing, according to the website, and it made him feel judged. 

“Eddie has received comments while he's been fishing since he's biracial,” Shupe said. “‘That's not very Black of you,’ is a comment he's received while fishing. So, we're just trying to break that look on fishing.”

Eddie Gill IV (left) and Justin Shupe (right) sit on the bow of Parker Boats’ 2520 XLD Offshore Sport Cabin. Parker Boats loaned Gill the boat for his "Journey for a Cause" through a connection with Grace College President William Katip. Eddie Gill IV, Photo Provided

Grace College President William Katip helped Gill contact Correct Craft, which owns Parker Boats, to secure a loaned boat for the trip.

Gill set up a GoFundMe and the donations were used to cover the cost of the journey and what is left over will be donated to nonprofits that promote equality. Of the $20,000 goal, Journey for a Cause has received $11,447 from the GoFundMe. 

Gill said he has narrowed down his choices for donations to two organizations.

To encourage and teach diversity, the people involved in Journey for a Cause — Shupe, Gill and his family — planned events along the way to the final destination on their 10-day journey. 

Journey for a Cause had three youth events along the trip — in Clifton and Counce, Tennessee and Demopolis, Alabama. During the events, Journey for a Cause taught children how to fish and Gill explained his goals.

“I hope kids were just able to try something out that they may have never had the opportunity to do before,” Gill said via text. 

Kiara Gill, her brother Eddie Gill IV (far left) and Justin Shupe (far upper right) pose with children who attended a youth event hosted by Journey for a Cause. The children learned how to fish and learned more about the group’s goals for diversity and inclusivity in the boating community. Eddie Gill IV, Photo Provided

Although the journey ended June 10, Gill and Shupe are trying to think of what the next step may be. 

“Me and [Gill] have been talking about turning [Journey for a Cause] into a nonprofit organization,” Shupe said. “We've also been talking about — maybe just a couple of times a year — doing events at local lakes with kids, getting them out fishing or something of that nature [or] maybe taking a trip every couple [of] years.”

Contact Ayah Eid with comments at azeid@bsu.edu or on Twitter @AyahEid2.

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