Arrived Home Today

I arrived home around 1:00 pm today. Wanted to thank Jack and Dave for driving to Mobile and picking me up. They are 2 of the quietest guys I have traveled with. We only had a small problem with a combination lock. Wanted to also thank Tonya and Tom from the Team River Runner South Alabama Chapter for their support in this project. I’m looking forward to seeing them again in the fall when I complete the run from Mobile to Dauphin Island.

Many thanks for all the comments and to all the followers on our website.

Fred Vail


Day 45

Arriving 10 days early to Mobile, we had planned with the Mobile chapter to paddle down Mobile river to the USS Alabama on the 23rd and continue to Dauphin Island on the 24th but the weather changed everything.

I met a guy from Mobile who gave me his card, and told me to be careful in the bay because it is a dangerous place. The 2015 Mobile tragedy killed 7 people and sunk 9 boats. The man had tears in his eyes telling me that 2 of those guys killed were his friends with family. Had competed for 20 years and now they were gone. How many times do we have to learn the same lesson over and over again? Words of wisdom, compassion, and love from another stranger.

It looks like we are going to pull the plug at this point. The flooding has closed a lot of roads here. The high water in the rivers here from all the rain and high winds are making it too dangerous to continue. Parts of Dauphin Island are being evacuated due to the flooding. The waves are over 6 feet high and one person has been killed. The goal is to return late July or August to finish this project

I’m not disappointed, and I do not feel defeated. I have no doubt that I will complete this later. I would never want a stupid decision on my part to give Team River Runner a black eye. I’m very happy with what was accomplished in just 45 days with the support of family, friends, and Team River Runner as a whole. This is not the end, but only the beginning of national recognition for an organization I passionately believe in.

A special thank you to Doctor Rick Rader, Elaine Adams, and the families and the individuals of the organizations I volunteer with, who were my inspiration to take this project on. I hope we can all continue to be a inspiration to each other in the future as we continue to grow our programs for all people with disabilities in Chattanooga.

I want to thank Amber Hardie who convinced me that she could build this website, and maintain it throughout the journey to the sea.
She has volunteered her time and skills to make this project successful. Thank you, Amber. Love you.

Please check back in the future because there will be more posts to come.

Living the dream

Fred Vail


The high winds make my tarp look like a kite.


The video below shows a little of the weather.

The below video is from inside my tent one day this week.

Day 44

Still raining here and a little windy. The Tensaw River was over the dock at the campground today.

All good here.

As you view the website, please keep in mind that the first page only has Day 44 through Day 15. If you would like to view Day 14 through Day 1, please click on the arrow  at the bottom of the first page to view the other pages.

Thank you for your continued support!

If you would like to donate please click HERE.

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Living the dream



Day 43

For those of you who watch too much Weather Channel, please keep in mind that Tropical Storm Cindy in the Gulf is directed toward Louisiana and Texas NOT Mobile, Alabama. You do not have to worry about me. Although, we are expecting about 12 inches of rain over the next 3 days, it should not be too bad. Yes, I am absolutely enjoying my time here. I had an exciting phone interview today with a lady who writes for Coastal News. As soon as I get the link, I will post it. I have to admit that I am enjoying the cooler temperature here at the moment.

All donations will go directly to Team River Runner (TRR).

I want to challenge you to look at the Team River Runner website, their youtube testimonials, and what this organization provides for veterans with any disability.

If you would like to donate please click HERE.

Under Donation Target* – Select TN-Chattanooga from the drop down menu.

Until tomorrow 😎

Living the dream


Even on a rainy, windy day there is beauty

There are two videos below of my camp and surroundings.



Day 42

Today I prepared my camp for wind and rain which will be moving in within the next 48 hours. Caught an Uber to Walmart for groceries, then arranged everything, and packed the boat with gear.

A depression in the Gulf is stirring up some weather, and although it looks like it will move more west, where I am will still get 9 to 12 inches of rain between now and Thursday.

Thankfully, everything still looks good for Friday.

I just wanted to thank everyone for their support for Team River Runner’s adaptive kayak program that gets disabled veterans back on the water. This is the reason I am here. Please look at and see what they are doing for our veterans. If you would like to donate please click HERE. Under Donation Target* – Select TN-Chattanooga from the drop down menu.

Thank you,
Fred Vail


Day 41

Hope everyone had a good Father’s Day!

Paddled 6 miles to a small beach and pier called May Day park in Daphne, Alabama. It got up to 86 degrees today, and was very humid. The wind picked up on my return back to camp, which made the water a little rough but not too bad (see pictures below).

If everything works out as planned, we will paddle the Mobile River past Austal to the USS Alabama and then to a camp site on the West this Friday, June 23, 2017. We will camp and then on Saturday, June 24th, continue on to Dauphin Island completing my journey to the sea. I am hoping the weather cooperates.

Please click HERE to donate.

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Living the dream


Sunset last night


Day 40

I wanted to share some exciting information with all of you. My friend Tom, whom I mentioned previously, sent the following email to a local news station.

Fred Vail, a Chattanooga kayaker has paddled over 700 miles from Chattanooga to Mobile in his quest to complete his journey to the Gulf at Dauphine Island.

Fred’s goal is to honor and bring attention to Team River Runner, a nation-wide veterans support group that provides opportunities for healing veterans through adaptive paddlesport. By his example he hopes to demonstrate the sense of possibility, self affirmation, and resilience that are core values of Team River Runner.

Fred has arrived in Mobile a week ahead of when expected. He is camping at Meaher State Park.

I represent the local chapter, Team River Runner – South Alabama. We are based in Daphne but serve a bi-county area.

This coming Friday afternoon, Fred and a number of local paddlers and possibly some dignitaries will launch our kayaks on the Mobile River beneath the Africa Town Bridge. Despite his unanticipated and early arrival locally, Fred would like to make the symbolic passage down the Mobile River past downtown and in front of Austal where the ships that will protect the current and future veterans who will serve on them are built. The significance of ending the passage at the Battleship should be self evident.

I have been in contact with Craig Savage, Communications Director at Austal. Fred is in hopes of getting a horn salute from the LCSs parked on the river in front of Austal. Rescheduling this event from Saturday to Friday has increased to likelihood of making that happen.

Fred’s cause is a worthy cause and serves a wide community of healing veterans. News coverage of Fred’s arrival in Mobile with those LCSs as a backdrop then ending at the Battleship. Fred will be emphatic that all focus should be on Team River Runner, not him. He will tell you that he is just a mirror of what can be accomplished by Team River Runner’s approach to healing vetrans.

I hope you can see that this is not only a “worthy” topic, it provides a “feel good” lesson for all. (=wide appeal)

Day 39

I am enjoying my down time, and had another great day. Met with Tom, a member of the Mobile TRR Chapter, this morning. You might think after paddling over 700 miles these past 5 weeks I would  be sick of my kayak or the water, but you would be wrong. Took my trusty kayak exploring after my meeting today, and paddled about 5 miles into the bay where the photographs below were taken. After my outing, I came back and had a late lunch. Tonight I am looking forward to going out to dinner with Tom and his wife.

Living the dream


Beautiful sunrise from my campsite


Downtown Mobile looking back from the bay
Heading back to camp


Day 38

Today has been a slow day, and I have been enjoying my surroundings. In the video below you can meet my new friend Ralph. In fact, I also met two of Ralph’s friends, however, they were too shy to have their picture made. This morning I went on a grocery run, and then went out in my kayak for about 45 minutes until the thunder started. It rained for a while, then the wind picked up. Looks like another storm is rolling in.


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Still living the Dream


This dock is located about 30 feet from my campsite. 
A nature trail that goes to the boardwalk to view wildlife at the camp ground

Video footage of my friend Ralph:


Day 37

Today was busy, and it started with an early 6:00 am walk. Then I stripped all the gear off the boat inside and out, washed all the sand and mud out, and washed the outside. During the cleaning process I found a big crack in the rear section of the keel, and I have already repaired it. Next I washed my clothes by hand and hung them on a line until the rain moved through for about 2 hours. As you can see below, I’m cooking meat on the grill tonight for dinner. It was a good day.

Living the dream


Bridge crossing Mobile Bay
Crack in the keel
Repair of crack in the keel
Washed by hand

Day 36: Reached over 700 miles

Late yesterday, I took a shortcut from the Mobile River to the Tensaw River. Taking this route made me about 12 miles closer to the campground. It only took me 10.75 miles to arrive at Meaher State Park Campground. If you need me, I will be camped here at the back of the bay until the 24th of June. On that day I will meet up with the Team River Runner (TRR) Mobile chapter for some paddling and a ceremony at the USS Alabama. Weather permitting, I will cross the Bay to Dauphin Island on Sunday, June 25th. There will still be daily updates so check back.

36 Days: 706.56 miles paddled

Please click HERE to donate.

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Living the dream



Camp last night
Camp last night


Last part of the delta
Meaher State Park (Home Sweet Home)

Day 35

Another beautiful day on the water. It rained for a few hours but cleared out and stayed overcast most of the day. I paddled 29 miles today, and just set up my tent on the sand. I’m going to grab some dinner and crash.


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Living the dream




Day 34

I have so enjoyed this last 100 mile section to Mobile. You will see mile marker 42 sign below, but I kept paddling 5 more miles after the sign. I got 27.60 miles today. Had to set up tarp today due to thunder storms passing through, but I got my hammock up and the sun came out. It was a good day paddling.


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Living the dream



Day 33

Had a good day, and paddled 25.16. Spotted a lovely sandy beach along the way today, and pulled over to have my lunch. I am really enjoying this section of Tombigbee more than I thought I would. Below are some pictures taken throughout the day today, and a view from my hammock this evening.


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Living the dream



Lunch spot


View from my hammock this evening

Day 32

Today was another beautiful day. Gorgeous sunshine all day, and it was a hot and very humid 86. I saw 2 different alligators while paddling, and neither one paid me any mind. I finished the day with 26.61 miles. If anyone needs me, I just finished eating and will be relaxing in my hammock.


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Living the dream



Video from today below:


Day 31

I am affectionately referring to today as…Fred Fun Day. Let me share with you why today was so enjoyable. I started out a little late this am and didn’t rush to get on the water. There was no wind for at least 4 hours, and then a slight breeze picked up.
I just rode the current for hours at a very slow pace, and took my time and enjoyed my surroundings. Upon paddling through a section of the Choctaw National Wildlife refuge,
I saw my first gator. It was about 4 ft long, and I watched it just slide off the bank and ease into the water.

Then just when you think it can’t get any better, Bobby’s Fish Camp pops up on my radar. Just 3 short miles later,  I’m tying my 18 ft sea kayak up at their gas dock. It is an old country restaurant like in a dream. As I walk up to the door, I can see lights on inside but the doors are closed. I call the number on the door, and can hear the phone ring inside. As I see a lady answer the phone, I hang up and walk in. I let her know it was me who just called and asked if they are open. She politely says yes they are open but the ovens aren’t on yet. I tell her no problem and ask for a sweet tea, as I take my seat. Little does she know that I do not mind waiting because it has been water (sometimes river water) and freeze-dried city for me. Hahaha.

Around 3:00pm a young couple came in and spoke first. Then I continue the conversation about team river runner, and give them the website. The gentleman looks it up, thanks me for what I am doing, and pays for my catfish dinner. He and his wife hugged me, and we had our pics made for her Facebook page (see below). I’m amazed at how a simple act of kindness and humility is so inspiring to me. Thank you so much April and Andrew. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store. Oh, I also ordered a chicken strip dinner to go and ate it about 2 hours later along the river. It was all delicious.

I have now paddled 587.44 miles. I’m currently 1/2 mile from the Coffeeville lock, which is the last one I will go through.

Please click HERE to donate.

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Living the dream


Home Sweet Home





Day 30

Today was a fun day to paddle, and was another 30 plus mile day. Between the rain making the river rise about 2 feet giving me a good current and the wind at my back, I was cruising today. I covered 16.21 miles in 3 hours and at one point I was paddling up to 7.6 mph. Finished the day up with 32.30 miles.

I can’t say enough about this Kayak. “Stellar S18 Advantage” (with rudder). It handles better and goes faster than any sea kayak I have ever paddled. Including myself, all my gear, and the kayak, I’m paddling about 292 pounds of total weight.

My reception is really bad this evening so check back tomorrow for more pictures.


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Living the dream




Camp last night

Day 29

It rained all night in a slow, steady pattern, which is perfect sleeping weather for me. I was out in no time, and slept like a baby. It was still raining this morning, until about 30 minutes before I headed out on the water. The weather was overcast most of the morning, but it hardly rained on me at all today. The river came up about 10 inches last night, so I had a current running about 1.7 mph. With the river on my side, I paddled 17 miles in 4 hours and finished the day by 3pm with a total of 28.35 miles. As you can see below, my campsite this evening is a little more glamorous than last night.

Please click HERE to donate.

Under Donation Target* – Select TN-Chattanooga from the drop down menu.

All donations will go directly to Team River Runner. To learn more about Team River Runner please visit their website, or view their youtube testimonials.

Living the dream


Camp last night
Camp last night


Camp tonight


Day 28: 17.69 miles

Total miles paddled in 28 days: 506.13 miles

Started the day off with a slight head wind, which continued through most of the day. It rained off and on, and as you can see from the video below, it was quite hard at times. All in all, it was still not a bad day. Paddled through the Demopolis lock this morning with no issues, and captured a short video. I will only be going through one more lock. I made camp this evening in a mud hole, but it is cozy.

Please click HERE to donate.

Under Donation Target* – Select TN-Chattanooga from the drop down menu.

All donations will go directly to Team River Runner. To learn more about Team River Runner please visit their website, or view their youtube testimonials.

Living the dream



Video below of the rain:


Video of Demopolis Lock:
Demopolis Lock
Leaving Demopolis Lock



Day 27

Deb, Karen, and BB (pictured below) delivered my last supply run. We went out to eat several times, and talked for hours. They left early this morning. Thank you girls for the food and great conversation. Thank you for making the trip for me, and I love you.

The marina is great and the people have been so nice. They have been treating me like I have a yacht. This place has nice clean bathrooms with 3 private shower rooms, and washers/dryers that I used today. They also have a courtesy car that I will use for the third time since I arrived to go to Walmart before I leave in the morning.

I have developed a new skill of rain prediction since setting off on my journey 27 days ago. I can count on it raining on my tent at exactly 4:30am every morning. The rain may or may not be due to the marina’s sprinkler system.

Living the dream





Day 25

Please note that there will be no update tomorrow (Saturday) as it is a down day, but there will be a new update on Sunday.

It rained off and on all day, but it was pleasant to me because I have always loved kayaking in the rain. I’m currently at the Kingfisher Bay Marina in Demopolis, Alabama, where I will be until Monday morning. Believe it or not, I paddled 33.77 miles today. Having previously worked at this marina in the past, I thought I would push through knowing they had a restaurant and motel.

My thinking was that if I paddled hard today, I would get a room and sleep in a real bed for 3 nights. However, when I arrived I found out that the motel and restaurant were closed. Another night in the tent it is my friends. I am expecting a resupply day tomorrow.

Fortunately the marina caters to boats traveling, so I can use their facilities, bathrooms, showers, and have access to a courtesy car. First on my agenda is a giant cheeseburger, onion rings, and a sweet tea.

On a side note, I ran out of water this week, and there was nowhere to refill. Therefore, I boiled river water for 2 days for drinking and cooking. Additionally my water filter was broken, but it was not as bad as I thought it would be honestly.

Total miles paddled in 25 days: 488.44 miles

Living the dream



Home Sweet Home

Day 24

It was another beautiful day on the water. If you could see me in my tent right now, you would see that I am smiling ear to ear as I write this. Some might call me crazy, but I have enjoyed every minute of my journey for Team River Runner since leaving Chattanooga on May 9th.

I paddled 23.4 miles today and locked through the Howell Heflin lock with no trouble. There weren’t many ahead of me, so I only had to wait about 1 hour before it was my turn.

Most of the pictures you see below were taken in Gainesville, Alabama. As I was paddling, I stumbled upon a herd of wild boar on the bank. Some of the boars had hair that stood up on their back like a mohawk. All but one ran when I got close. There always has to be one in every group. I never know what wildlife I might encounter from day to day.

Living the dream

Go Team River Runner


Day 23

Started out paddling this morning at 5am, and got in a total of 22.51 miles. As you can see below from the pictures and video, it was a beautiful sight to behold. Just me and the sounds of nature all around. One of the positives of getting on the water so early, is that I get to enjoy the sunrise as I paddle and watch it reflect off the water . There was no wind today and the water was smooth as glass. I couldn’t help but take a few pictures so you guys could share it with me. The mile marker below means I am 274.4 miles from Mobile. Since I paddled another 3 miles after passing this sign, I am actually 271.4 miles from Mobile at the moment.

Total miles paddled in 23 days: 431.27 miles

Living the dream



Serene video below:




274.4 miles to Mobile


First signs of Spanish Moss


My cozy home for the evening

How to Donate

Team River Runner (TRR) is a non-profit organization that promotes healing through paddle sports for disabled veterans from all five branches of military service.  It is 100% free to all disabled veterans and their families.

All donations will go directly to Team River Runner. To learn more about Team River Runner please visit their website, or view their youtube testimonials.

Under Donation Target* – Select TN-Chattanooga from the drop down menu.

Please click HERE to donate.


Day 22

My day started off in the rain but then the sun came out. There was no wind today and the water was like glass, which was great for paddling. Today I had the pleasure of chatting with two wonderful ladies, Amanda and Leighana, who were sitting on the river bank watching a barge as I came paddling along (picture below). Thank you for promoting Team River Runner. After locking through, I stopped and had lunch. Once back on the water, it rained on me for the next few hours. Had to look long and hard for a camp site, but I found one. Got in 26.56 miles and my next lock is 54 miles from my current location. The reception is not great this evening, so check back in the morning for pictures and videos.

Total miles paddled in 22 days: 408.76 miles

Living the dream


Day 22


Lock video below:



Day 21: Memorial Day

Memorial Day is here. My dictionary version of Memorial Day is a question. What did our veterans fight for?

They fought for America. Mothers saw their sons and daughters go to war. Children saw their mothers and fathers go to war. These were our brothers and sisters, our aunts and uncles, our families and friends.

What I’ve learned in 20 days on my quest for Team River Runner is described below. As I paddle an 18 ft kayak for disabled veterans, I have been thanked, hugged, fed by total strangers, allowed to charge my battery pack at no cost, and people have called from hundreds of miles away to find out where they could meet me to bring me food and/or water. A short conversation with a Navy veteran about his family who fought and came home only to never speak of their experience. Only after he was deployed and came home did he have the answer. With tears in his eyes, he said that it’s too painful.

The people of America have given me new insight on what MEMORIAL Day means.

This journey for Team River Runner continues.

God I love this country.

Stopped in the Columbus marina and got water. Got back in my boat and called the lock master on the vhf radio and he said come on in. The same sail boat from 2 days ago was in the lock, and I tied off on the sail boat. Turns out he is from Chattanooga and as we got to talking, he wants me to speak to a group of kids thru Ycap and bring my boat. He is currently on his way to the Bahamas.
The wind stopped after I locked through and I paddled 21 miles today. It was a good day.

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Day 20

Left out this morning at 9 with a 6 mph head wind and gusting up to 8 mph. There were lots of pleasure craft out for the holiday weekend. They rocked me for hours. I gave it up at 2:30pm and got in a total of 11.2 miles today. Yesterday I reached 350 miles on my journey, which is half way to Mobile.

Living the dream



Video of the choppy water today:
Kayak is safe and sound 
Ready for a good night’s sleep

Day 19

Paddled 26.6 miles today and locked through 3 locks. My last lock was the Aberdeen lock. I had a 6 mph head wind all day. My endurance is getting stronger everyday, and I am feeling good. Slept 7 hours straight last night without waking up, which was a first for me so far on this journey. Set my tarps up tonight because there is an 80% chance of rain. The next lock I will encounter is 23 miles from my current location.

I want to thank everyone who is following the Team River Runner on Memorial Day weekend.
Living the dream

Sunrise this morning
Getting closer to my goal


Video of Amory Lock below:
Amory, Mississippi

Video of Aberdeen Lock below:


Home for the night

Day 18

Left camp at 9:00am heading for the Fulton lock with a 5 mph head wind. The lock master had the lock set for the lower side, and raised it to lock me through. Those guys are so great.

Caroline, Jason’s mom, contacted me a few days ago because she has a cousin in Tupelo, Mississippi, who offered to meet up with me and feed me. Her cousin, Cathy, called me and we set a time to meet at Bean’s Ferry boat ramp, which is 3 miles below the Fulton lock. I arrived 10 minutes late due to the head wind. Rick and Cathy are 2 inspiring people. We ate chicken, potatoes, and talked for 1 hour and 20 minutes. As I was leaving, they gave me a ton of fried chicken, potatoes, and bananas. They have a product company, and even sent me pictures from today (see below). Caroline, Jim, Cathy, and Rick you are my inspiration today. You guys are great Americans, and I love you.

Also met 2 young guys, Josh and Jeremy, fishing that could not believe I’m taking this kayak to the sea. I’m putting them in the blog today, and their picture is below.

Heading to my next lock, 15 miles away, the wind got up to 17 mph which slowed my progress to 1-2 mph the last few hours. I parked the boat at 4:30pm, getting in 16 miles today and putting me just short of the next lock.

Living the dream.


Fulton Lock
Picture courtesy of Cathy
Picture courtesy of Cathy
Rick and Cathy


Josh and Jeremy
Home Sweet Home



Day 17

Left Bay Springs Marina this morning after the fog cleared (see below), and called the lock master at the Jamie Whitten lock. He had the lock open for me on arrival, and he called ahead to the Montgomery lock. When I was leaving there, the lock master asked how long will it would take me to get to the next lock, and I told him 3 hours in this window. He called ahead to the John Rankin lock, which was a longer run. When I got close to the Rankin lock, the lock master was busy but held the lock open to run me through. He was a navy Vet, and I had a great conversation with him. All the lock masters thanked me for what I was doing for vets and the Rankin lock master wrote down my website.  These guys treated me like gold, and I want to thank them all for inspiring me today. After leaving Rankin I had to run 5 more miles to get my 20 miles goal in today. Now I am at my new home for the night.

Fun Fact: When I left Chattanooga I was around 800 feet above sea level, and now I am around 270 feet above sea level.

I have paddled 308.8 miles so far on my incredible journey.

Living the dream

Camp last night at Bay Springs Marina


This morning at Bay Springs
Whitten Lock
Whitten Lock


Whitten Lock
Montgomery Lock
Montgomery Lock
Montgomery Lock

Video passing thru Montgomery Lock:


Welcome to my new home in Mississippi!

Day 16

It was a good day and I paddled 22.8 miles. Despite a tail wind and 3 hours of rain I’m still smiling. The pictures below should give you an idea of how slack the water has been, and I was able to capture a picture of a big ‘ol barge passing by. Setting up camp and calling it a night folks. Until tomorrow…

Living the dream.

Go Team River Runner


Big barge passing through
Bay Springs Marina in New Site, Mississippi

Day 15

This is my first night in Mississippi camping along the Tennessee-Tombigee (Tenn-Tom) Waterway, which extends 449 miles (see first mile marker below). Keep in mind, it’s a man-made water way. Transit boaters refer to it as the big ditch.  I had a 2 to 4 mph head wind almost the whole day, and paddled 21 miles. The section I’m on is called Yellow Creek.  Nothing like sweet home Alabama. If you need me, I’ll be sleeping the night away in my hammock.

Stopped in here to refill my water


I am 449 miles from Mobile Bay

How to DONATE:

All donations will go directly to Team River Runner (TRR).

I want to challenge you to look at the Team River Runner website, their youtube testimonials, and what this organization provides for veterans with any disability. If every veteran donated $1.00, we would more than surpass our goal.

Under Donation Target* – Select TN-Chattanooga from the drop down menu.

Please click HERE to donate.