Fulfilling a ‘bucket list’

Kingsford grad helps cousin with series in aunt’s memory

COUSINS NICK, LEFT, and Gregory Smith made their first attempt at sailing a home made wooden raft on the Mississippi River last summer but ran into some high water and had to cut their trip short. The duo plans to reattempt the large feat and run the entire Wisconsin border of the Mississippi this coming summer.

After his mother’s untimely death, Gregory Smith decided he wanted to live his life to the fullest — and he decided to take three of his closest friends along for the ride.

Shortly after Colleen Smith lost her eight-year battle with cancer at the relatively young age of 51, her son came across his mother’s board of accomplishments she’d hoped to do in her life.

“She would snip things out of magazines and add them to her board,” her son said. Goals such as rafting through the Grand Canyon, he said, or climbing a mountain.

So Smith decided to complete his mother’s list, along with adding a few of his own.

He and three friends compiled everything they ever conceived of doing, with no idea too grand.

When finished, the list had 273 items that included rafting the Mississippi River, milking a cow and riding an elephant.

Several items were chosen specifically to honor Colleen. For example, the group will perform 51 random acts of kindness to represent his mother’s years on Earth, her son said.

Taking the bucket list idea to the next level, the four friends decided to document their adventure into a series this summer.

According to their website “Don’t Blink” will have eight episodes designed to inspire people to chase their dreams.

It will be filmed this summer as the team travels around Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, “chasing 14 of their most exciting Bucket List items.”

Colleen Smith, her husband Dan and their two sons Gregory and Mark, lived in Brookfield, Wis., but Dan Smith grew up in Iron Mountain.

His parents, Dorothy and Gene Smith, and brothers Lawrence and Joe Smith still live in the area.

Enter cousin Nick Smith, the son of Joe and Karen Smith and Lisa and Mike Berlinski of Kingsford. He is a 2016 graduate of Kingsford High School and now is studying business and marketing at Albion College in Albion, Michigan.

Nick Smith called his Aunt Colleen “such a nice person” and said he misses “her presence,” especially during the holidays.

“She loved the Fourth of July. She made everyone happier. It’s been tough, the first couple years without her,” he said.

Nick Smith said his Aunt Colleen enjoyed water skiing, a sport he excels at, so they added Tommy Bartlett’s Water Show in Wisconsin Dells on the itinerary.

“I wanted to put Tommy Bartlett on the list, because we water skied out on Moon Lake. We would take the boat out every night in the summer,” Nick Smith said.

In addition to the Smith cousins, Kevin Reardon and Owen Gibson of the Milwaukee area also are driving forces in the “Don’t Blink” adventure.

One obstacle to the effort has been that none of the men live in the same area. Reardon is a Marquette University High School grad now at Marquette University in Milwaukee. Gibson attends Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. Gregory Smith is in Portland, Oregon, and Nick Smith, as mentioned, in lower Michigan.

“That is the most challenging part,” Smith said. The guys keep in touch through group chats and share ideas daily.

The distance between them certainly hasn’t slowed the idea process. Last summer, the guys milked a cow at the Bal farm in Norway, jumped off the Badwater bridge and went down the Mississippi River on a homemade wooden raft until it was cut short when the water rose 7 feet higher than usual.

The boys hope for a do-over this year and plan to run the entire Wisconsin border of the Mississippi this summer.

Other list items for 2017 include living with the Amish, dancing with Miss Wisconsin, cooking dinner for the governor and donating a big check to charity.

The item the competitive cousins are looking forward to the most is running the Sausage Race at Miller Park, the mascot competition before the bottom of the sixth inning at every Milwaukee Brewers home game. It is a promotion for the Klement’s Sausage Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, whose sausages are served at Miller Park. The race includes the bratwurst, the Polish sausage, the Italian sausage, the hot dog and the chorizo.

The guys were given the okay to dress as the mascots and run the race this summer.

Nick Smith said the cousins used to run around their grandma’s house when they were kids and “Gregory always said he was the fastest.”

Nick disagrees. “We can settle that once in for all,” he said.

According to the website “The series has received widespread interest, being featured in several newspapers and blogs. Wisconsin Public Television and WNMU Public TV 13 have written letters of support stating their interest in broadcasting the series. Milwaukee Public Television has expressed an interest in the series and the ‘Don’t Blink’ team is also exploring other outlets for broadcast, ranging from local to national networks to online broadcast options.”

Heavy promotion of the film began Feb. 12 with a release of a new video on the beforeweblink.com website and a continuation of video postings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.