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Unfinished mission: Mississippi River canoe trip to raise funds for Beacon House

Peter Frank, who rode a unicycle from Wisconsin to Arizona in 2021 to raise money for the Steve Mariucci Family Beacon House, plans to canoe down the Mississippi River this summer as another fundraiser for the facility. Frank is shown here outside of the Beacon House. (Photo courtesy of Beacon House)

MARQUETTE — Some people just don’t give up.

For the Steve Mariucci Family Beacon House in Marquette, that’s a good thing.

In 2021, 20-year-old Peter Frank of Escanaba embarked on a 2,400-mile trip from Wisconsin to Arizona on a unicycle to raise money for the Beacon House, which calls itself a “home away from home” for patients and families who must travel to receive medical care at UP Health System-Marquette and the Upper Peninsula Medical Care Center.

Beacon House gives its guests the chance to not have to worry about lodging and how to pay for it while staying close to a loved one undergoing medical care.

Frank is asking for donations so people won’t have to spend time driving back and forth from their hometowns.

However, the private nonprofit Beacon House is based on donations, so the money has to come from somewhere.

So far, Frank has raised $26,000 — $15,000 from the unicycle trip alone — which is short of his original $100,000 goal.

That’s where Frank’s latest fundraising effort comes in.

This spring, he will canoe 2,400 miles down the Mississippi River to raise money for Beacon House.

Born in Bessemer, Frank and his family moved to Escanaba when he was 6. The Eagle Scout said he loves adventure. However, when he was 14, he had an adventure he didn’t plan.

While hiding in a pile of leaves, a car ran over Frank, leaving him fighting for his life in the hospital with his mother rarely leaving his bedside.

Frank explained his situation in a fundraising letter for his canoe trip to local businesses.

“The first week, my family did not know if I would make it,” Frank wrote. “My dad would come into my room every morning around 3 to 4 a.m. until my mom woke up and then they would switch places.”

Frank, who broke 14 bones, needed back and leg surgery three days after his accident when was still sedated. He also got a C. diff — or Clostridioides difficile — colitis infection from the antibiotics, went on a ventilator, had to relearn how to swallow and walk, became nauseated from the pain medications and dealt with other issues.

That’s a lot to take, but fortunately for Frank, he had family.

“If it wasn’t for my mom being there to help and be there for me, it would have been a nightmare,” Frank wrote in his letter.

A big help, he notes, was his mother being able to stay at the former Beacon House, which then was located along Third Street in Marquette, for 30 days without having to go home.

“Beacon House told my parents they can stay as long as they needed,” Frank said in the letter. “The feelings of relief my parents had were because of donors.”

Frank’s wish is to keep Beacon House open for families like his to be close to their loved ones in the hospital.

In a telephone interview with The Mining Journal, Frank talked about the upcoming trip, noting that his Eagle Scout background will help.

“Through Boy Scouting, I spent a lot of time on the open waters,” he said.

Frank said he plans to leave in about a month from the river’s headwaters.

The new Steve Mariucci Family Beacon House is at 200 S. Seventh St. in Marquette, close to UPHS-Marquette. The facility bears the name of the former coach of the Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers — and Iron Mountain native — and his family. Mariucci stayed in the former Beacon House after his mother developed cancer.

Unfortunately, his mother passed away, but the family decided to commit to the Beacon House mission.

Beacon House CEO Mary Tavernini Dowling had some kind words about Frank.

“We meet some pretty incredible people at Beacon House and Peter Frank is certainly one of the most memorable,” Dowling said in an email. “To ride a unicycle across the U.S. for us, and now canoeing the Mississippi River, is simply amazing. His gifts to us and others are hallmarks of his generous spirit. We are truly grateful to have Peter in our midst.”

Mariucci also complimented Frank on his efforts.

“It’s amazing — his commitment to the Beacon House to do some extraordinary things to help raise money for us,” Mariucci said.

Frank said he met with Dowling to assess what the Beacon House needs regarding fundraising.

“They’re still raising money for a lot of different things to keep the Beacon House up and running,” he said.

Every dollar, he noted, is tax-deductible and goes directly to Beacon House.

Donations can be made online at upbeaconhouse.org/peterfrank. A check or money order can be sent, with “Peter Frank” on the memo and made payable to the Mariucci Family Beacon House, to 200 S. Seventh St., Marquette, MI 49855.

Frank said every donor will be listed on the Beacon House website by name. Also, he will mention the list of donors and businesses on his social media videos during his trip.

People can follow Frank on his Mississippi River journey at whereispeterfrank.com, which has links to his social media accounts.

Frank said he believes people can become inspired by “living variously” through his journeys, which he considers more important than the “overwhelming amount of experience” he gains as an individual.

“Ideally, I want people to look at these adventures and I want people to feel inspired by them,” Frank said.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250, or cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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