Many people float down the Delaware in colorful tubes on hot days, sipping icy drinks and forgetting their weekly worries. But every summer, a group of tubers hits the river for much more than a relaxing trip.
This Saturday, members of the Joel A. Gingras Jr. Memorial Foundation (JAG Fund) will host their annual Tube Float. Started for fun in 1983, the event now raises money for brain tumor research in honor of the foundation’s namesake, Joel Gingras, Jr., who was diagnosed with a rare, benign tumor in 1988.
The Gingras family used that year’s tube float to raise money for Joel’s rehabilitation; tragically, he died that October at age 27, due to post-surgery complications. Joel’s brother, Christian Gingras, believes the float helped keep his family together.
“It helped our parents, family and friends stay close,” he said. “I have friends that come to the tube float to this day, 33 years later, and Joel’s friends still come too. Through life and kids and jobs they all still come.”
As the vice president of the JAG Fund, Gingras is most proud of this part of the event – the bond that each of the tubers (“tube heads”) shares, and the new connections forged over the river’s rolling waters.
With the help of Bucks County River Country, the tube heads start north of Tinicum and drift down the river in interconnected tubes like an inflatable spiderweb. Tubers latch onto the central “river barge,” the foundation’s floating hub, which dishes out food and beverages and provides musical accompaniment to their Delaware meander.
Before landing in Point Pleasant, the tube heads stop for hot dogs and hamburgers on an island and toast to Joel’s life and memory.
Although the tube float might be fun, Gingras’ favorite part of the event is the impact it and the foundation have each year.
Since its founding in 1989, the JAG Fund has raised over $2.2 million for the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA), including $150,000 in 2020. Through a pledge program started in 1995, each tube head solicits money on individual sheets, asking family, friends and neighbors to donate.