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Mike & Marge 'River Mom' Cline Memorial Grant
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In honor of her son, Mike, the ACA is pleased to assist in continuing Marge 'River Mom' Cline's legacy to encourage youth in the Midwest (IL, IN, MI, WI) to participate in paddlesports.


About River Mom:


A master of canoe and kayak, Marge was one of the top paddling instructors in the country. A stickler for safety and proper technique in her classes, she thrived on the exhilaration of taking on a wild river. Her signature move was a headstand in the bow as her canoe shot through white water. A family rafting trip to West Virginia in the late 1970s hooked Marge on river sports. She was teaching within a few years and became certified by the American Canoe Association as an Instructor Trainer Educator.  Marge edited the Chicago Whitewater Association newsletter for more than 25 years. She also subscribed to similar newsletters around the country and gathered pertinent news for a publication called Confluence, which connected canoeists and kayakers. In the early 1990s, Marge organized a Paddling in the Park event in Chicago, which later drew hundreds. In 1996, she was inducted into the ACA Hall of Fame as a Legend of Paddling award recipient.  In 2000, Marge was named one of 100 Paddlers of the 20th Century by Paddler Magazine, one of many honors she received over the years for her dedication to the sport. 

  • Learn more about Marge 'River Mom' Cline (PDF)
  • How 'River Mom' got her name (PDF)
  • Poetry by Mike Cline (Canoe)




The ACA has set up a dedicated account if you would like to contribute to this grant program for youth paddlesports education in the Midwest. 


Grant Overview:

Each year, as funding permits, the ACA will grant up to $1,000.00 to individuals or non-profit organizations to provide paddlesports opportunities for youth in the Midwest.  These funds should be used to further an individuals ability to participate in canoe, kayak, SUP or rafting.  

A condition of acceptance, is that the recipient(s) will commit to giving back to their local paddling community.  For example, the recipient could talk about whitewater safety at an event, organize a local river clean up, etc.


2020 Timeline:

  • December 9, 2019: online applications open
  • February 10, 2020: online applications have closed
  • March 2, 2020: recipients announced


Eligibility Criteria:

In order to be considered for this grant program, the applicant must meet the following criteria:



  • U.S. Citizen
  • 20 years old or younger
  • Live in any of the following Midwest states:
    • Illinois
    • Indiana
    • Michigan
    • Wisconsin


  • non-profit organization or paddling club
  • membership / area of focus primarily based in the Midwest

Additional Criteria

  • The previous year's recipient is ineligible to apply the following year
  • An individual/organization can not receive the grant two years in a row
  • If selected, the recipient agrees to give back to their paddling community as outlined in their application  

Grant Application Components:

  • For an Individual
    • A letter of intent outlining:
      • How will the grant help you achieve your paddlesports related goal(s)?
      • Budget of how funds will be spent
      • Community Service: what will you do to 'give back' to your local paddling community? 
    • Biography
  • For a Paddling Club / Organization
    • A letter of intent outlining:
      • How will the grant funding encourage or increase youth participation in paddlesports?
      • Budget of how funds will be spent
      • Community Service: what will your organization do to 'give back' to your local paddling community? 
    • Organization Logo
    • Website

Conditions of Acceptance/Accountability:

  • Within 30 days of completing the grant project, the recipient(s) will submit a final report to the ACA, including, but not limited to:
    • written summary
    • account for expenses with receipts
    • applicable pictures

Selection Committee:

  • ACA Staff Member
  • Kathy Ullrich - Marge's daughter
  • Joann Benedetto - friend of Marge & former ACA Midwest Division Treasurer
  • Non-voting liaison member from the Illinois Paddling Council (IPC)
    • Sigrid Pilgrim - friend of Marge & former ACA Board of Director 


  • 2020
    • River Bend Nature Center
      • Scholarships for 7 youth to attend Sea Kayak Camp
      • Coordinate a river bank clean-up to learn about the ecological health of the river waters
    • Chicago Voyagers
      • Help support Outdoor Adventure therapy programs including Kayaking and Canoeing
      • Gives at-rick youth skills needed to lead healthy and successful lives
  • 2019
    • Paige Minor
      • attend World Class Kayak Academy
      • assist Chicago Whitewater Association with beginner river trips and pool rolling sessions
    • Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan Council
      • youth scholarships for Paddle Excursion Program
      • develop a paddling safety video


If you have any additional questions, please contact the ACA National Office.





ACA Mission

Founded in 1880, The American Canoe Association (ACA) is a national nonprofit organization serving the broader paddling public by providing education related to all aspects of paddling, stewardship support to help protect paddling environments, and sanctioning of programs and events to promote paddlesport competition, exploration, and recreation.

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