Marge Cline Memorial Grant Program - ACA

Youth Paddling Development

Marge Cline Memorial Grant Program

Mike & Marge “River Mom” Cline Memorial Grant

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. We appreciate and honor Marge’s son, Mike, for the founding of this program.

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.

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, rafting, packrafting, or paddlecraft fishing.

A condition of acceptance is that the recipient(s) will commit to giving back to their local paddling community.

2024 Timeline:

    • February 1 – online applications open
    • March 1 – applications close
    • March 8 – recipients announced
    • October 27 – all projects complete
    • November 22 – all reports due

Eligibility Requirements:

  • For individuals:
    • Be an ACA Member
    • U.S. Citizen
    • 20 years old or younger
    • Live in one of the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin
  • For organizations:
    • Be an ACA Organizational Member
    • Hold current non-profit status
    • Membership/area of focus based in the Mid-West

Grant Selection Committee:

  • Kathy Ullrich –  Marge’s Daughter
  • Erik Sprenne – Friend of Marge and former ACA River Kayaking Instructor and Instructor Trainer
  • Pam Dillon – ACA Board Member and former ACA Executive Director
  • Michelle Flynn  – ACA Staff Member

Past Recipients:

  • 2023
    • Potawatomi Paddlers
      • One day kayak skills training for youth groups and scouts
      • Paddle safety tables at local summer festivals and farmer’s markets to promote safety on the water and local paddle site information
    • Nelson Neighborhood Organization.
      • Provide capsize water safety training to youth and elders
      • Prepare a training video for the community and school groups
      • Water quality testing and how “score the shore”, as part of the community stewardship mission
  •  2022
    • Refugee Education and Adventure Challenge (REACH)
      • Funds will be given as scholarships for refugee youth leaders to attend intensive, 3-day paddling leadership training
      • In addition, funds will be utilized for youth-led service projects including river clean ups and wildlife habitat assessments
    • West Michigan Coastal Kayakers Association (WMCKA)
      • Provide scholarships for three Chicago Adventure Therapy youth to attend paddling leadership symposium hosted by WMCKA
      • Further empower youth from the Chicago area to develop paddling skills and confidence to build stronger relationships with the water and with their community
  •  2021
    • Erik Bate
      • Attend World Class Kayak Academy
      • Ongoing river clean-ups and teaching at the Marge Cline Whitewater Park
    • Pat Lawlor
      • Scholarships for 20 youth to participate in an Introduction to Kayaking course
      • Students took learned skills and knowledge to volunteer opportunities at “Paddle the Kish” workdays
  • 2020
    • River Bend Nature Center
      • Scholarships for 7 youth to attend Sea Kayak Camp
      • Coordinated a river bank clean-up to learn about the ecological health of the river
    • Chicago Voyageurs
      • Supported Outdoor Adventure therapy programs including kayaking and canoeing
  • 2019
    • Paige Minor
      • Attended World Class Kayak Academy
      • Assisted Chicago Whitewater Association with beginner river trips and pool rolling sessions
    • Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan Council
      • Youth scholarships for Paddle Excursion Program
      • Developed a paddling safety video

If you have any additional questions about this program, please contact the ACA National Office at