Team Ohana is a force to be reckoned with. This dedicated team of four incredibly tough athletes will take on the Pacific Ocean this month to raise awareness for two important causes and to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. On June 12, Paul Lore will be joining his teammates on board Courageous to row 2,800 miles from Monterey Bay, California to the beautiful “Garden Island” of Kauai in Hawaii.
Before I tell you more about the team and the causes they have chosen to support through this challenge, let me explain why (other than the obvious reason—a 2,800-mile row across the Pacific Ocean!) this event is so inspiring to me.
Paul Lore, a well-loved member of our community and huge supporter of everything Amelia Island, met the other members of Team Ohana while preparing for the Atlantic Challenge in December 2021. Many of you may know that in February 2022, Paul Lore, Billy Cimino, Cameron Hansen, and A.M. “Hupp” Huppmann, otherwise known as Foar From Home, completed the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.
Thanks to their efforts and the support of local businesses, as well as friends, family members, and others who believed in what they were doing, the Foar From Home team passed their $500,000 goal and raised over $915,000 to raise awareness in the fight to end Veteran PTSD and suicide.
If you follow Paul’s social media sites, you know how much work goes into getting ready for a huge challenge like this. So many people—donors, sponsors, and volunteers—stepped in to help with everything from transporting Courageous (which has been given a makeover to reflect the new challenge) to planning events to raise awareness for their newest endeavor; working on the trailer, rudders, hatches, cargo lines, and all sorts of repairs and much needed updates to the boat; holding events, hosting dinners, creating special cocktails, and playing music to raise money to support the charities and get the team to the starting line. As Paul is known to say, “It really does take an Island…”
Paul has done a fantastic job documenting the entire process and giving thanks to everyone who supports the mission on social media, including his photography site on Instagram @Southern_Fried_Pictures. How he finds time to promote the causes he feels so passionately about while training for this new cross-Pacific row, bartending at The Florida House Inn, working on renovations of the Thompson House (the historic 1872 home he and his wife, Ruth Maestre, purchased three years ago), and making time for anyone who needs a shoulder to lean on or an ear to listen to their story, is proof that Paul is truly someone special.
“Life is all about restoration, renovation…paying it forward” is something Paul told me last year, and he lives it every day.
So now that you know more about Paul, let me formally introduce him and the other members of Team Ohana.
Paul Lore served eight years in the U.S. Marines as an Air Traffic Controller and the next 30 years as a controller for the Federal Aviation Administration. He graduated from the University of Michigan and completed a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma.
Paul, the proud father of four grown children, is very active in the community. Paul serves as the Nassau County Representative for the Veteran Fire Watch Program and the St Marys River Management Committee. He serves on the Fernandina Beach Marina Advisory Board and is a Board Member of Keep Nassau Beautiful. He also started Fins & Friends for Gold Star families, veterans, and first responders. Per Paul, “All you need is a love of the ocean and each other.”
Coached by Jason Cottingham under the direction of Jacksonville University, Paul is an avid paddler on his Outrigger Canoe, completing numerous 20 and 50-mile paddles.
Paul’s reason for the row: “At the moment, I’m rich in time and I want to give my time to others! I want to make a difference in a veteran’s life because they make a difference in my life by protecting us every day.”
Iris Noordzij is from Jubbega, Friesland, The Netherlands. Iris, a two-time transoceanic rower, brings significant oceanic rowing experience to the team. In 2020, she rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge. The challenge was completed in forty-three days, and she came in first in the Women’s 4 class with her team, Atlantic Dutchesses, winning the Murden Trophy.
In December 2021, Iris participated again in the Atlantic Challenge, rowing in the Women’s Trio class with the team, Row for IMPACT. That’s two years in a row, no pun intended! The second crossing was also done in forty-three days, and both crosses were done in the R45 elite Queen of Hearts.
Iris works as a sports massage therapist. She is married, mother of four adult children, two stepchildren, and has a grandson. Iris got a taste for lifeboat rowing at Trewes Rowing Club some seventeen years ago and has been a member of this association ever since. Iris and rowing have become a powerful combination.
Iris’s reason for the row: On the ocean, Iris experiences a form of steady state meditation. The ocean can also be very challenging. Despite trouble with the heat or cold, fatigue, and feeling hungry, she experiences a happiness that is unrivalled, living in the here and now and experiencing phenomenal freedom.
“Dealing with the elements, after all, offers no alternative but staying focused and persevering. Rethinking: telling yourself the desired situation instead of getting stuck in the negativity. Being crazy enough to believe you can do anything in life. And this life only comes around once, so do whatever makes you happy, and be around those who make you smile,” she says.
Mat Steinlin, a Swiss-born dual citizen (U.S./Swiss), was raised in the beautiful mountains of Switzerland. He now resides in the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine, Florida. He is proud of his three incredible children from his first marriage and is raising an intelligent ten-year old with his wife, Morgan.
His adventurous spirit and his relentless desire to make things happen against all odds are what drives him—from wing walking, to learning how to fly a Cessna 172, to the ultimate challenge, the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2021, where his team, Team Row4Hope, raised money for Make-a-Wish Central and Northern Florida.
Mat’s reason for the row: “In times like these, standing up for each other while not expecting anything in return has become a rare treat. Changing the world, making an impact while pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone… what could be better than that?”
Marina Hunziker was born and raised in Lucerne, Switzerland, where she still resides. She spent a large part of her childhood in the countryside with her younger brother and grew up with a great connection to nature. Spending most of her free time and vacations paddling through southern Sweden, hiking the Swiss mountains, sailing the Mediterranean, or just having a fondue on an open fire at the lake, being outside is Marina’s favorite place to be.
In 2021, Marina joined her teammate, Sonja Graf, aboard their boat, Miss Universe, to compete in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Their team, Team Project X, chose the charity Kovive, a loving and reliable charity to support children who live in poverty and dysfunctional families because they believe every child deserves a safe and loving childhood.
Marina’s reason for the row: “We live in hard times with pandemics and wars. Especially during these times, it is important to stand together, help people, and focus on the positive. Rowing the Atlantic was one of the best experiences of my life! Rowing another ocean with the most amazing team to support K9 for Warriors and help people, I can’t imagine anything better!”
This is Team Ohana, a mixed team of four ocean rowers from the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States, who were drawn to each by their dedication to the sport of rowing, and by their love for the ocean and their love for others.
Team Ohana is rowing for K9s For Warriors and the Children’s Tumor Foundation and. Team Ohana’s mission is to put a halt to the staggering numbers of veterans lost to suicide each year and to find a cure for NF (neurofibromatosis), which effects one in every three thousand births in the United States.
K9s For Warriors provides highly trained service dogs to military veterans suffering from PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Military Sexual Trauma. By bringing awareness to K9s For Warriors, Team Ohana wants to empower and connect others to create a journey that will give a dog a new purpose and empower our veterans to look forward to tomorrow.
The Children Tumor Foundation is determined to find a cure for NF through innovative medical research. By shining a light on the Children’s Tumor Foundation, Team Ohana hopes to drive medical researchers to discover innovative concepts to help find a cure to End NF.
Michele Holbrook, another strong member of Amelia Island’s community, was diagnosed with schwannomatosis in her early twenties. Schwannomatosis is a type of neurofibromatosis that results in multiple tumors (called schwannomas) that grow on the coverings of peripheral nerves throughout the body and can cause debilitating pain and neurological dysfunction.
Michele was recently named the Children’s Tumor Foundation 2023 NF Ambassador. This award is bestowed upon an individual with NF to recognize their courage in living with the disorder, their personal efforts to further the foundation’s goals of research, public awareness, and patient support. CTF is committed to supporting NF patients throughout their life, at all ages, and the role of the NF Ambassador is evolving to reflect that.
In May, the City of Fernandina Beach and Mayor Bradley Bean signed a Proclamation that proclaims May as Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month thanks to Michele’s efforts. I asked Michele about the collaboration of Team Ohana and CTF. “I live with a rare genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis, and as the 2023 Ambassador for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, it is my goal to raise awareness for research to find a cure,” says Michelle. “Seeing the younger generation living with this genetic disorder is heart-wrenching. This May, we lost two NF heroes, and without a cure there will be many more, so when Team Ohana (Paul, Matt, Iris and Marina) approached me about rowing for CTF, I was in tears.
“It truly takes a village! My prayer is that through this we will raise $500,000 to go towards research for CTF, and another child will not have to endure what I, or any other NF fighter, has had to endure. Thank you for your support in purchasing a heart!”
If you would like to support Team Ohana to raise awareness for the two important charities they’ve chosen, you can follow their journey at www.ohana2023.com. Visit their website to donate and help them reach their goal!