LIV, the custom made, single-occupant row boat that took Gibbons around Lake Michigan last summer during a highly publicized charity adventure, will move on to its fourth owner next week now that the 28-year-old Gibbons has decided it is time to move on.
She found a buyer through the site oceanrowing.com, and will meet him Friday.
"I just wanted it to be the right person," she said, "and I feel like this is the right one. I want somebody to understand and respect the amazing creature that LIV is, and I want her to have more adventures. I want her to be able to experience many more things beyond what I've given her. She's an amazing piece of equipment that belongs in a museum some day, and I hope that my trip is just a small piece of her career.
"I think about the nights on the lake where I thought I was going to die. I think about the nights on the lake where I just wanted to give up. And this boat never ever once told me I couldn't accomplish this. She never failed me. Even when I was sexually assaulted, she was ready to go and she was ready for me to trust her again.
"There were many times when I felt like, ‘You know what? I can't do this, but LIV is here for me. LIV has done this before, and we can do this together.' "
Since finishing her trip in August, Gibbons has continued on her path of building her organization Recovery On Water--better known as ROW--a group that turns breast cancer survivors into rowers. She raised more than $175,000 with her 2012 trip around Lake Michigan, money the group has used to buy two new row boats, with plenty left over.
"I don't want to spend all the money we made all at once just because we have it," she said. "We really want to be smart about it."
Along with creating a solid foundation with ROW that will include full-time employees, Gibbons' goal for 2013 is to reach underserved survivors.
"We've always been able to work with women that could have been able to find rowing as a sport with or without ROW," she said. "The biggest piece of our organization in the coming year is that we want to work with women who don't have this sport available to them. We want to work with breast cancer survivors who don't have the resources and the opportunities to exercise. So we're really, really working with women on the south and west sides of the city.
"I've spent the last couple of weeks at Stroger Hospital, which is the hospital where everybody goes who doesn't have health insurance, and I've really been trying to dig deep into the women who are underserved. I've been trying to understand, ‘What would it take for a woman to join our program? Do these women need childcare? Do these women need transportation?' We want to work with women who need us most."
While 2013 will be a year of laying groundwork, 2014 will be a year of another adventure. Gibbons is being light with the details, but said she is indeed "planning an adventure. It involves something I've never done before that still involves Lake Michigan and still involves rowing, but it's a different way. It's an adventure that will take me around Lake Michigan, but in a potentially more physically challenging mode of transport."
She wants to raise more than $3000,000 with her next trip.
As for LIV, the boat will be gone but not forgotten. Friday night, after she and the buyer have completed their deal, Gibbons plans on having a private goodbye with the boat at Crowley's Boat Yard, along with some pizza and champagne.
"My boat never let me down," she said. "I will always have a relationship and a bond to that piece of fiberglass. I will never forget her or what it was like to live inside of that boat."
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor.
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