As spring warms waters around the country, boat owners everywhere are heading down to the docks with big plans for cruising. For most of us, boating in the weeks and months ahead will satisfy an urge for pleasure—to see new places, to enjoy time outdoors with our favorite people, and to allow the healing properties of saltwater to soothe the sense of isolation so many of us have experienced during a long winter inside. While pleasure is one of the key benefits of boating, I’m always interested in learning about people who find ways to couple the fun of cruising with the joy of helping others in need.
Soundings contributor Kim Kavin recently told me about Tom Corrigan, a 45-year-old professional at a New Jersey pharmaceutical company who used his Sea Ray 280 Sundancer to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Corrigan has a personal connection to the nonprofit. His nephew Carson was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma at the age of 1, and endured radiation, chemotherapy and surgeries for the cancer. As a patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Carson stayed at one of the houses, and Corrigan was with him on a few occasions.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck and Corrigan’s job became remote, he got the idea to combine fundraising for Carson’s St. Jude account with cruising and working aboard. He plotted a course from Haverstraw, New York, up to the Canadian border, with the intent to collect money for the miles traveled.
Corrigan had never done this type of trip before. A typical cruise for him was a weekend on Pennsylvania’s Lake Wallenpaupack with his yellow Labrador Retriever, Hank. To prepare for the trip he bought coolers for food stowage and got a 50-gallon bladder to expand the boat’s 100-gallon fuel capacity. And he chose to sleep in the forward V-berth and leave the larger stateroom for stowage.
When Corrigan got to Lake Champlain he realized he wanted to keep going. He was headed for the Great Lakes when Carson, after seeing photos of his uncle and the dog under way, asked Corrigan to bring the boat down to his home state of Alabama. Carson, now 4, was undergoing aggressive treatment.
Corrigan set a course for Alabama, and in doing so was on his way to becoming a Great Loop cruiser. By Thanksgiving, he had cruised the Great Lakes, gone down the Mississippi River and tied up near his nephew’s house, raising more than $15,000 in the process.
“It’s not really about the money,” Corrigan told Kavin. “It’s about all the positive energy. People from all around the country know Carson’s name. They know what St. Jude’s is. The more people who know and who pray for Carson, that has to help.”