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A Challenge for Charity:

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Panacea Paddle
6/4, 8 a.m. • Carolina Beach Marina
$50-$100 entry fee
Prizes and cash!

Panacea Adventures, Wilmington NC

PADDLE FOR GOOD: A multitude of categories in the Panacea Paddle allows many skill levels to paricipate in the charitable event. Courtesy photo.

There is something relieving and, occasionally, therapeutic about nature. For those boxed in the colorless, mind-numbing cubicles, or for some of us who simply don’t have time to escape civilization, stepping into the wild becomes almost necessary to retain our sanity and self-esteem. Camping is probably the easiest and most typical way to get away from Babylon. For the lucky ones who live in Wilmington, we can take great advantage of the city’s surfing camps and stunning wildlife parks. Among the escape is Panacea Adventures, a thrilling and challenging experience for people of all ages and backgrounds to test their endurance.


Growing up, Zac Adair and his wife Celine were both outdoor children. With their love for nature, traveling and wilderness education, the couple’s lives eventually collided. Consequently, they formed Panacea Adventures in 2009. Now executive director, Zac Adair describes the nonprofit program as a “wilderness therapy organization that utilizes a variety of approaches in wilderness context to facilitate interpersonal development and empowerment.” Combined, the couple has been in the industry for over 30 years.

“It has become part of our lives and our reason to exist,” Adair says. “The program is done through an experiential process that implements wilderness experience and outdoor skills. Communication abilities, leadership skills and the importance of teamwork is heavily taught in the curriculum. All are necessary to survive the back country for groups or for the individual. The best part about it: You learn these essential skills and also have lots of fun!”

The Adairs have stressed the program’s open invitation. They want it to provide support on all levels—regardless of “physical or cognitive disadvantages, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion or race.” They use their program to  help sustain personal growth by improving on multiple platforms: communication, personal insight, conflict resolution, value clarification, leadership, decision-making, camaraderie, development of coping skills and environmental stewardship. For different ages and populations, the curriculum may vary, but in the end, the core mission and ideals remain  the same. However, participants enjoy the benefits of backpacking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, surfing, sea kayaking and more.

“What makes the wilderness experience so unique are the inherent risks that are associated with [it,] Adair says.” “There are two kinds of risks: inherent and perceived. Perceived risks are the ones that we and civilized society see as potentially dangerous. Inherent risks are things like inclement weather, steep mountains, and so forth. Panacea is all about challenging our participants until they master their skills for the wilderness and just everyday normal life in society.”

The Adairs host “Youth Leading the Way” expeditions, which is a diverse array of programs for children and young adults including climbing a mountain peak summit of 6,000 feet, as well as “Charity Camps.” On Saturday, June 4, they will host a fund-raiser, the Panacea Paddle, at the Carolina Beach Marina, behind Tangerine’s Caribbean Grill on Carl Winner Avenue. The day will include live music, delicious food and paddling competitions to raise money for special-needs populations, so they may enjoy a multi-day wilderness programming free of charge. The Charity Camps will benefit from the Paddle’s proceeds, including a mountaineering program for Wounded Warriors, charting a week-long wilderness course for those with juvenile diabetes and  “The Healing Ocean,” which allows surfing for visually-impaired children, sea-kayaking for cancer patients and whitewater rafting for those inflicted with cystic fibrosis.  “The Healing Ocean” has already met its capacity of students, due to the wonderful experiences and the case studies on saltwater’s positive effects of cystic fibrosis patients.

The festival is family-friendly, and encourages a communal gathering for people to enjoy an outdoor day of adventure and relaxation. “Anyone can come, and just sit in their lounge chairs and cheer for the paddle participants,” Adair notes. “The Panacea Paddle allows people to enjoy being outside, eat good food, hear good music and watch the competition. The event is very much in alignment with Panacea’s mission. Everyone will have fun and also help raise money to provide expeditions for people lacking guidance and finances. Not to mention the proceeds will go toward new wilderness programs.”

Competitive paddling categories include sea kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, and both novice and elite classes will accommodate varying skill levels. The Elite SUP Race will begin at 9 a.m., the Elite Kayak Race (10K) will be at 10:45 a.m., and the Recreational Race (5K) will be at 12:15 p.m. Entrance fees for Paddling Competitions are: $40 individual recreational, ($50 day of), $70 tandem recreational, ($80 day of), and $90 elite racers ($100 day of), which will include a Panacea Paddle race jersey and T-shirt. Prizes will be available for those sporting the best costume, best team spirit and best outfitted boat for the recreational class. For those only attending to watch and experience a good time, the fee is a mere $10.

Folks can register online for the race, or arrive at 8 a.m. and register the day of the big race!

For more information about Panacea Adventures, including volunteering for events, call (910) 508-8088, e-mail

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