River of Love: Bringing the Family Together

It all started in Kerri Rougemont’s head.

Team athletes Kerri, Trinity Wall and Ashley Bean spent a beautiful late summer day on the Blue River, splashing in wave trains, laughing, surfing and playing, and we started talking about our river friend Erin Livingston, whose recent breast cancer diagnosis was weighing heavily on us.

River of LoveKerri had been dreaming up ways to show support for Erin, perhaps members of Team Hala offering a beginner whitewater SUP clinic with proceeds going to Erin. We loved the idea. I love parties, so I decided to try and expand on the idea to increase our fundraising scope.

When you find out someone you know has cancer, it is so tempting to rush in and help. It’s a tricky topic, because no cancer patient wants pity, but we were certain Erin could use the strength and support of our river family coming together.
River of LoveWe approached Erin to make sure she would be okay with being the beneficiary of an event called River of Love, and after carefully considering it, she agreed.

Knowing beforehand that many folks would not be able to attend an event one month away, we set up a GoFundMe for Erin as well. Yes, the website does take fees, but it was a great way to reach a lot of people around the country.

Sparing the boring details of putting a fundraiser together, the short story is that Team Hala shared a long-threaded group email with lots of ideas. We decided on a casual day on the river and an after-party with a raffle, and somehow we locked down a date. Hala's Victoria Ohegyi made a beautiful poster. We blitzed the Colorado outdoor community with requests for donations, and the response was amazing!
River of LoveHere’s what it looked like:

  • Blazing Adventures, of Snowmass, and Blue Sky Adventures of Glenwood Springs each donated about 4 hours of shuttle time in their cushy vans.
  • Everyone worked together to strap down the awkward mass of SUPs, kayaks and rafts piled high on the shuttle trailers. Our drivers, Ben and Bob, laughed with us as we messily hauled our gear and ourselves into their rigs. We weren’t terribly organized, but the drivers went with the theme of the day: go with the flow.
  • Team Hala members Kerri, Trinity, and Cami Swan provided an outstanding clinic on the Grizzly Creek section of the Colorado River. 11 clinic participants got to enjoy Hala demo boards courtesy of tech rep Jeremiah Williams.
  • The rest of the crowd played on Shoshone, a 2-mile section of exciting class 3 whitewater that is best enjoyed with lots of friends, done in multiple laps. Most of us got three laps in and laughed harder than we thought possible. We suggested a $10 donation per lap, and the soggy dollars came flying in.

Hala Gear SUPThe vibe was so positive and upbeat. Erin Livingston enjoyed a lap on a raft and was given the ultimate river experience: a brief swim in the brisk waves of the Maneater rapid. She came up smiling!

River of Love Hala GearGlenwood Springs Brew Garden hosted the after-party, which featured entertainment from some seriously talented Colorado musicians! Jeff Matchette of Denver and Rob Dasaro, Erin Gallagher and Colin Mabbett, of the Roaring Fork Valley, kicked it off with some beautiful tunes. Front Range-based band Crash Nation ramped things up, and we capped the evening off with the brand-new band Core Shot who rocked Sublime and Rage Against the Machine covers and had some of us headbanging for the first time in decades!

Capitol Creek Brewery gave business sponsor Wiggle Monsters a great deal on its delicious Mexican Lager, which we sipped while we sold raffle tickets.

Raffle prizes were incredible! Swag donations came from:

We also received generous major donations from:
Hala Gear and Evergreen Mountain Sports, both of which donated Hala carbon paddles, and Altitude Paddleboards and Badfish SUP, both of which donated our grand prizes, two Badfish SK8 surfboards

…with amazing prizes like these it goes without saying our ticket sales were HUGE! All told we raised close to $6,000.
River of LoveIt was so encouraging to see so many businesses contribute so generously to this cause. It was also uplifting to see so many river users take time to spend the day in support of Erin.

Ultimately, Erin has to fight the battle against cancer by herself. We can’t really make that easier on her. All we can do is give her money, which we know isn’t the same thing as health. But in today’s America, even those with insurance are looking at serious bills with this much medical treatment. No one needs the kind of stress that big bills bring, least of all someone who is fighting for her life.

River of Love created an opportunity for Erin’s river family to support her in a meaningful way, lifting spirits, creating bright memories, and easing the financial burden of a major medical event. It also planted the seed for an event like this in the future!

A huge, rushing current of thanks and appreciation to all who were involved.

River of LovePost written by Ashley Bean, a team rider for Hala Gear. Photo credit Rapid Image Photography, Trinity Wall, and Victoria Ohegyi. 

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