When Lakewood resident Beth O’Kain reflects on becoming the 33rd American to row across the Atlantic Ocean, her mind immediately drifts to hundreds of children in Uganda without access to clean drinking water.
This summer, the 41-year-old hopes to become the first person to row solo across Lake Erie.
O’Kain has joined up with local nonprofit Drink Local. Drink Tap to raise money and awareness to provide a water well to a small village in the east African country.
The well will provide water to an estimated 700 children — 300 of whom are orphans.
“When I (learned about this) project, it seemed like it’s such a great cause,” she said. “It’s given me the motivation to row across Lake Erie — as far as I know, no one has done it before.”
Others have tried.
“It takes planning to do a project like this successfully,” said O’Kain, who works by day as a marketing specialist. “Hopefully, I will be the first to do it successfully.”
This isn’t her first rowing rodeo.
Last year, O’Kain became the 33rd American to row across the Atlantic Ocean — a feat that took 43 days — in an effort to raise money for young women in sports and promote positive body image.
“I wanted to push my body to see what I could do, and I thought it would be a spiritual experience,” she said. “There’s nowhere to hide out there. I was so tired. There were moments of physical exhaustion.”
Depending on the weather conditions, O’Kain expects the 55-mile row — from Cleveland to Rondeau Provincial Park in Canada — to take between 16 hours.
But she won’t take any breaks on this trip, tentatively slated for July 14.
“I am going to try to muscle it out,” she said. “If I see a large body of water, I just want to start rowing.”
She’ll trade the comforts of her Lakewood home for protein bars, Gatorade and beef jerky (her favorite).
With Lake Erie’s unpredictable waters crashing around her, there will be a safety boat trailing closely behind.
“For some reason, I don’t get nervous,” she said. “I always assume the minute I decide to do something that I am going to be successful. But I really need to train to make sure I can do this. As long as I do that, everything should be fine.”
She’s set a goal to raise $5,000 for the trip, and she’s already halfway there.
“People have been really generous, it’s been amazing,” she said. “I am hoping, in an exhausting way, that it will be fun.” I am hoping there’s a real feeling of accomplishment when I am done."
Erin Huber, also a Lakewood resident, who co-founded the nonprofit last year, wrote from a small Ugandan village where she’s working to drill a watering hole that will serve 700 children.
She praised O’Kain’s daring attempt.
"We think it's absolutely amazing that she has chosen to take on such a difficult adventure in honor of the kids in Uganda,” she wrote. "It's such a great way to raise awareness about how the Great Lakes have 20 percent of the world's surface water yet the people in the village we're helping have to walk miles to get very little water."
Follow O'Kain's adventure here.
Editor's note: O'Kain has been named the Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day.