Written by: Beth Kohl, Rowing Cares

Rowers from the Saugatuck Survive-Oars have been instrumental in the development and growth of the Survivor Rowing Network. These three strong Saugatuck women have already won the hardest race of their lives, but took on rowing and found new confidence and friends for life. Their children have been some of their greatest supporters and cheer them on and off the water. We asked these survivors how rowing has impacted them, and how their children are celebrating them this Mother's Day.


Lori Boersma, Survivor

I was invited to be part of the Saugatuck Survive-OARS in Westport, CT a year after my second cancer diagnosis. At that time I had been extremely sick and the thought of rowing (or anything physical) never crossed my mind. Six years and many meters later, I had the most amazing thrill of rowing in the 2023 Head of the Charles with the Survivor Rowing Network. Because of rowing, I am stronger than I have ever been, more confident in what my body is capable of, and part of a team of amazing survivors that I can’t imagine life without.

In addition to being a part of the Survive-OARS team, this past year I have become part of the Survivor Rowing Network and joined the Rowing Cares Board so I can help other cancer survivors find what I have found in rowing. With the Survivor Rowing Network, we have the opportunity to help many more survivors discover how positively life changing rowing can be, both on and off the water!



Chelsea Boersma, Daughter

As a two time cancer survivor, the thing my mom needed the most was a community of women who could understand, support, and uplift her throughout her post-cancer process. What I never imagined she would find along with that community was a common passion for an activity that helps her stay active and continue to stay cancer free. Throughout my life my mom has always been a social butterfly. She is a part of “moms groups” from my preschool days, has wonderful relationships with her work clients, and makes friends wherever she goes. However, I have never known her to have a solid passion... that was until she started rowing. That passion has turned into an obsession due to the relationships she has built with the other women on the team and it keeps her active, healthy, involved, and supported.



Holly Sexton, Survivor

I received an email from Norwalk hospital in January 2018, where I was treated for breast cancer three years earlier, with an invitation to participate in a learn to row program they were launching with the Saugatuck Rowing Club. 

After my treatment and recovery, I tried everything to change my lifestyle and become more active and healthier. I participated in all the programs that were offered including the Livestrong program at the Y, Casting for Recovery, and special yoga and nutrition classes. Nothing resonated or changed my habits or well-being until I discovered rowing! I am a completely different person… I lost weight, increased muscle mass, had cardiovascular improvement, more energy, made life-long friends, and had amazing experiences challenging myself. The list is endless of the positive impact rowing has had on my well-being.

Being a part of SRN has been an important part of my ongoing wellness journey. It has given me the confidence to reach for goals that I thought were impossible… and achieve them! In addition, the support, encouragement, and love from the members in the network is the best part. Supporting SRN will not only change other people’s lives for the better, but it will also save their lives.

Growth and comfort don’t co-exist. You will have the support of others to challenge yourself and change your life. You are stronger than you think and joining a survivor rowing program can help you discover that. You are not alone.


Maeve Sexton, Daughter

Rowing proved to be invaluable throughout my mother's battle with cancer and subsequent recovery. It has made her the strongest version of herself, mentally and physically. Surrounded by a supportive community of women who have faced similar challenges, she found love, motivation, and friendship.

Since joining the Survivor Rowing Network, I've witnessed remarkable changes in my mother. She has embraced a lifestyle centered around health and fitness. Her dedication to her well-being is inspiring, and I am so thankful that she has found a supportive community in this wonderful organization.

“Celebrate a Mother You Love” means reciprocating the unconditional love my mother has given me for the past 22 years, while showing appreciation and admiration for her unwavering strength and resilience.


Victoria Madden, Survivor

My first exposure to rowing was through my children. I encouraged my son Luke to row as he was entering high school. He joined the local rowing club and then continued to row at university.  At the same time, our oldest son joined the rowing team at his university. Having grown up on the water, I was immediately attracted to that aspect of the sport. I have always found the water/ocean to be a place of peace and calm.

After I had completed my cancer treatment, the local hospital’s nurse navigator reached out to the (breast cancer) survivor community asking if we had any interest in joining a rowing group as part of our health/wellness. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to give it a try! I was part of the first group of Survive-OARS that row out of Saugatuck Rowing Club in Westport CT. Our ‘training’ started very slowly, learning the stroke sequence, building endurance and strength, and then transitioning to on the water training. The group of women that joined the Survive-OARS slowly bonded. Although at first our bond was through our common ‘journey’ of diagnosis/treatment, over time our bond grew as teammates. We worked together, we supported each other both in and out of the boat, and we have grown to be an amazing support for each other. My involvement with the rowing community has given me an incredible support network as well as giving me the opportunity to develop a fitness routine that allows me to be the strongest, most fit person I can be! 

    Being involved with the Survivor Rowing Network and survivor rowing in general has reinforced my belief that finding a fitness community allows you to lead a fuller life. Being healthy and strong of body is one thing, but the sense of community and belonging that I’ve experienced with my survivor group has been immeasurable. They understand the anxiety of feeling/seeing something new that needs to be investigated and they are there with advice, suggestions, and an ear to listen whenever I’ve needed it.

    There have been many memorable moments over the six years that I’ve been rowing. But for me, being part of the first SRN crew to row at the Head of the Charles Regatta in 2023 was a highlight. It wasn’t just being able to participate in such a prestigious event, it was the bonds that were formed with the other survivors from around the country, the coaches that led us, and all the people behind the scenes that made it happen.

    It may sound cliché, but being involved with survivor rowing has been life-changing! The benefits are multifaceted: the health benefits as it relates to survivorship – both physical and mental, the sense of community and the support that goes along with it, and being part of an organization whose mission is to raise awareness of these benefits so that others can have the opportunity to experience what I have – it’s one of the best things that came from my cancer diagnosis. 


    Luke Briglin, Son

    My mom is the strongest person I know. Not only does she balance taking care of me and my two siblings, but she makes sure that she supports us in our own ways and pushes us to be the best we can be. My mom was the person who said I should row and I owe all my success to her support. She is the most resilient person I have ever seen and it makes me proud to see my mom staying strong through everything she has gone through. No one will ever teach me more about life than her, about how to take what life deals you and fight back. Nothing is more important to me than 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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