Dad & daughter paddle 200 miles down Delaware River together

ByMatteo Iadonisi
Friday, September 4, 2020
Dad & daughter paddle 200 miles down Delaware River together
Tim Downs, who has blood cancer, was a nurse before COVID-19 hit. With his new time off, he and his daughter embarked on the voyage of a lifetime.

TRENTON, N.J. -- It was a tranquil yet daunting month for Tim Downs and his daughter, Franny, who recently capped off a 200-mile voyage paddling down the Delaware River.

There were gorgeous vistas to gaze at and river rapids waiting to be tackled. For every moment floating in serenity, there was a muscle-straining motion to match. But at the end of their trip, Tim checked a major accomplishment off his bucket list.

"One of a few upsides that I could say to COVID was the fact that it gave me something I never would have been able to do," Tim said.

Working as a nurse in a long term care facility in Glenside, PA, it was hard for Tim to forge a window of time to make such a journey. He may still have been working on the front lines during the pandemic if not for his diagnosis with a form of blood cancer that is especially rare for a 50-year-old.

"I have CLL, which is Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which puts me in the absolute highest risk group for possibly fatal outcomes if I would contract the virus," he said.

For someone in need of social distancing more than ever, perhaps the Delaware River wasn't a bad place to sojourn for a month.

Tim grabbed his canoe and equipped his daughter, Franny, with a kayak. The tag-team from Mount Airy, Philadelphia, embarked on a series of several days-long expeditions starting in Hancock, NY, and ending in Trenton, NJ. Taking breaks on the weekends, it took the team about a month to complete.

"I think it definitely brought us closer," said Franny, 16, who would have started training for a private pilot's license this summer if not for the COVID-19 pandemic. "We had a lot of great memories," she said.

Tim and his wife adopted Franny from China shortly after her first birthday. Their time spent on the river gave way for the teenager to backpaddle on growing up so fast.

"She's going to be going to college soon and I see that just as a great gift to be able to spend this time with her, you know, out on the river," said Tim. "She's a brave, smart girl...or actually a brave, smart woman now."

Franny hopes to study engineering and potentially become a pilot as an adult. No matter what path she takes, Tim thinks he'd like to repeat the same journey with her children in the future.

"We'll see, we'll see," joked Franny.

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