BROTHERS use float trip to aid heart center

Monday, May 28th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(TULSA) - Tommy White has a bad heart and wants people to know it.

White, 48, suffers from a hereditary heart disease and is awaiting a transplant. But in an effort to show that such an ailment doesn't have to mean total inactivity, he is planning a five-week float to raise money for heart disease and transplant research.

``This might be my last hurrah, but it's important not to give up,'' said White, of Bartlesville.

He, his brother Danny White and family friend Rod Reeves will attempt a 358-mile canoe trip down the Arkansas River beginning Saturday at Raymond, Kan., and continuing to the Kerr Reservoir near the Arkansas-Oklahoma border.

They will pay for the ``Heart of America Float'' out of their own pockets, and all donations will go to the St. Francis Heart Center.

``It's telling people that you can still live your life. You don't have to give up,'' White said.

All three men suffer from hereditary heart disease. The trip, although lengthy, helps fight the depression that accompanies heart disease, which according to the White brothers takes a little more out of you each day, leaving a feeling of constant fatigue.

``It's an adventure,'' Danny White said. ``We'll be floating beside 49 different towns. Half of them we've already contacted and they will support us with their hospitals.''

About six months of research on water levels and weather has gone into the trip. The group of four, which will include Reeves' 13-year-old son, Caleb, plan to float eight to 10 hours a day and will be camping out for the duration of the trip.

Kenny Waldon, White's half-brother, will be the driver of the support vehicle and will try to remain at least a day ahead of the two canoes, while making sure to meet up with them at least once every other day to resupply.

Recent weather could make things difficult, but rains make the river move faster, which consequently shortens the trip considerably. ``The river right now is up a bit with all the rain we had down south, which means the water up north will be up, too,'' Danny White said. ``Right now the conditions are great.''

If he doesn't get a new heart by the end of next year, Tommy White might die.

``I inherited heart disease,'' he said. ``It's not from my younger, wilder days. I have four children; I've got to worry about them getting heart disease.''

To make donations, contact Stacey Copeland with Arvest Bank in Bartlesville at 918-337-3249 or mail checks to Heart of America Float, care of Stacey Copeland, P.O. Box 999, Bartlesville, OK 74005.