RIB adventure nets $5,000 for charity

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A businessman recently raised thousands of dollars to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by piloting a new rigid-hulled inflatable more than 1,000 miles from Marblehead, Mass., to his home in Wilmington, N.C.

A businessman recently raised thousands of dollars to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by piloting a new rigid-hulled inflatable more than 1,000 miles from Marblehead, Mass., to his home in Wilmington, N.C.

“I had purchased the boat not long ago and had to make the passage anyway, so I thought it would make the long trip meaningful if I could help out this cause,” says Kirk Sears, president of the Wilmington Group, an executive recruitment firm. “We only had one week to put this together before I had to get the boat. It was a bit of a challenge, but also fun.”

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, according to information on its Web site (www.leukemia-lymphoma.org ), says it is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services.

Sears says two of his co-workers were trying to raise $14,000 to donate to the society. He considered the delivery of his boat an opportunity to help them reach their goal. “They were working diligently to raise the money and only needed $2,000 more,” explains Sears, who is 50. “I figured if we took per-mile donations, from 10 cents to $1, we could reach out to various people and organizations and make it happen.”

It turns out the people at Ribcraft were also interested in seeing Sears’ project be successful.

“Kirk has been a very loyal customer of ours, having owned two Ribcrafts prior to this new one,” says Ribcraft’s Matthew Velluto. “We know how important the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is, so when we learned of Kirk’s interest in doing the trip to North Carolina again in an effort to raise money for Leukemia & Lymphoma, we immediately wanted to help him make it a success.”

Sears arrived in Marblehead in mid-May at the headquarters of Ribcraft (www.ribcraftusa.com ) to pick up his custom 21-foot Ribcraft 210, called Boiler Maker. He set off on his delivery May 18 with his wife, Sylvia, who is also 50, as his mate.

“She had never made the passage before,” Sears says of his wife. “But I thought, ‘Hey, she’s pretty adventurous. Maybe she should come, too.’ ”

The couple traveled from Marblehead to Newport, R.I.; then to Port Jefferson, N.Y.; pushed on to Cape May, N.J.; then to Deltaville, Va., and finished five days later in Wilmington. Kirk Sears says he and his wife traveled 1,040 miles. “Because of the weather — bad rain and 20- to 30-knot winds blowing from the south — we didn’t make as good a time as we had hoped we would,” he says. “The boat was cresting over 2- to 3-foot waves and would come down, right in the middle, on the wave behind it. The best we did was about 56 mph coming down the [ICW]. We never had any mechanical breakdowns, though. We never felt unsafe.”

After arriving safely in Wilmington the pair was told their adventure had helped raise more than $5,000, or about $5 per mile. “This wasn’t your usual fund-raising event,” Kirk Sears says. “It was a little bit different, interesting and something you could track. I think that’s why it was a success.”

Sears says he’s happy to have been able to help an important organization, and is looking forward to getting Boiler Maker on the water this season to explore the “marvelous” barrier islands near where he lives.

“This fund-raiser really made the trip getting the boat down here all the more worthwhile,” he says. “This is something I think Sylvia and I will be talking about for quite a while.”