A Special Bond Grows Even Stronger

Written by: Beth Kohl, Rowing Cares

A powerful bond between mother and son brings us to share their story in celebration of Mother’s Day. We met the Behrens family from New Jersey a few years ago when Brendan participated in the Rowing Cares Pink Boathouse Challenge in honor of his mother, Krisi. He was Celebrating A Mother He Loves.

Over the years, Brendan has continued to compete at rowing events in honor of his mom, including the Rowing Cares Mercer Indoor Challenge and the Head of the Charles. He is a man of deep conviction and love for his mother. Brendan’s dedication in his quest to fight Breast Cancer along with his mom, led him to row for the Princeton YWCA Breast Cancer Resource Center. There was a tremendous outpouring of support for the Behrens family, and, in the end, Brendan was the top fundraiser for the event.

Both Krisi and Brendan are committed to helping those who are fighting. We thank them. They will always be an inspiration to us. In honor of Mother’s Day, Rowing Cares and JL Racing asked them to share a bit of themselves and their incredible journey.



“Brendan started rowing in college. Five years after graduation, he still rows at the crack of dawn before work. His rowing teammates & friends have supported him at his Rowing Cares fundraisers. This year Brendan will be wearing the pink ribbon while training with the New York Athletic Club.

"I was touched by Brendan’s first race entry in the Pink Boathouse Challenge back in 2021. Three of his friends shaved their heads. One said, ‘We know that you didn’t need chemo, but we also know breast cancer is a fight for the rest of your life, so we wanted to show you we will be there for you.’ This gesture was incredibly moving.

"When Brendan mentioned that he was doing the Rowing Cares Mercer Indoor Challenge to raise funds and awareness, we continued to be very proud of him. We appreciate his giving heart, discipline, and focus on raising awareness and funds. It is shocking to hear 1 out of 8 women will experience some form of breast cancer in the U.S., and we want to help people detect cancer early by getting their mammogram. Catching cancer early may help someone before it becomes invasive and possibly save lives and/or possibly lessen the need for extended treatment. During this journey, we received tremendous support from our families, friends, social media, and work communities. Prayers still help get me through scan results.

"After a year of various treatments, I was filled with dread when I learned that my scans showed a new growth. The idea of going through everything again caused me to panic. Before going through my radiation, our dear friends’ son had given me insight into how he managed the sessions. A child reaching out to help me who would eventually reach out & inspire many other Ewing Sarcoma patients across the country with his legacy. There are no adequate words to describe losing Charlie.

"The pain of it made me so angry at cancer.

"I asked Charlie’s parents if I could create a race to raise money in his honor for Ewing Sarcoma. This race would help me channel my own anger towards cancer. No child should have to go through any of it. So while Brendan took his fight for me against cancer by rowing, I ran. Running helped me focus on being as fit as possible to prepare for whatever I might face next. Running for Charlie gave me a purpose beyond my own health. We felt divine intervention when we realized that the Charlie7K Race was on the same day as my MRI. I ran the race and by 7:30am we were heading to the hospital for my MRI. The race made me feel strong and ready to face the unknown. So when I finished my MRI, there were pictures of people racing from Florida to NY. Our daughter Stephanie ran on the treadmill in SC the first year and in upstate NY last year. Stephanie has aspirations to become a pediatric hematologist/oncologist. She has been inspired by too many cancer patients in our area: Matthew, Ben, Jack, Charlie, Sarah…me. Brendan & Stephanie fight for me and others in their own way.

"I have been fortunate that there have been no changes. This July will be our 3rd Annual Charlie 7K, I will start training again soon wearing all the Rowing Cares sportswear that Brendan has given me. Wearing these clothes gives me inner strength. Meanwhile, our Brendan will be rowing every weekend wearing the pink ribbon on the water.  We are all connected, and the hope is that one day all cancer is cured, and life is extended for survivors."


“I picked up rowing in college during my freshman spring after encouragement from my parents to try a new sport. Having a background in high school football, one of the things that always stood out to me was how much all the guys looked forward to October when they could wear pink and support Breast Cancer Awareness.

“After my mom’s diagnosis, it was no longer just about raising awareness; it meant showing my love and support for my mom. I had no idea the pain and discomfort that many experience after treatments. My mom went back to teaching tennis as soon as possible. Despite having doubts about her level of play and still being in pain, she would still go out almost every day for us. It can be hard watching her walk around after she spends a day teaching because of the pain in her joints and feet caused by her cancer medication, but she did it out of love. That is what true strength is.

“Rowing Cares events offered the perfect way for me to represent her and show my love. Giving has always been one of her core values, so becoming a fundraiser meant I could represent her in the best possible way. When my closest friends heard about the diagnosis, they all shaved their heads for her in October. I received support from everyone I know. They always asked about her and how she’s doing. Thinking of my mom while rowing has given me the strength to keep going when I question if I have anything left to give. Thank you to everyone who has supported me and honored my mom."


Celebrate a Mother You Love by making a donation to Survivor Rowing Network's fundraiser, or making a purchase from the JL Racing Pre-Order Store. 10% of net sales from this store will be donated to Survivor Rowing Network.

Your gift will fund opportunities for cancer survivors to row together, healing from the mental, physical, and spiritual strength that rowing provides to women and men around the world. Help SRN empower survivors and change more lives forever.

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