Despite harboring a fear of water, this former NFL athlete is preparing to embark on an epic voyage across Lake Michigan – and he’s doing it all for charity.
Not only is Charles Tillman afraid of large bodies of water (which he credits to his intense fear of sharks), he also has no experience in rowing or construction, let alone a naval-ready vessel for the journey ahead of him. Thankfully, he has already begun laying the groundwork for his mission.
Tillman, who used to play as a cornerback for the Chicago Bears, retired from the football field in 2015. Now, he dedicates part of his time towards the foundation he created in 2005 as a means of helping low-income families pay off their medical bills.
Though he admits that his upcoming voyage is a “crazy” one, he believes that people should conquer their fears – and he believes that the best way to conquer his fear of water is to sail across Lake Michigan in order to raise money for pediatric cancer research.
“I’m terrified of water,” Tillman told The Chicago Tribune. “I think in life you’ve got to conquer your fears. I think this is a fear I can conquer.”
“I like the craziness of jumping in a boat, building it from scratch – hopefully it floats – and then entrusting my life with it,” he added. “It’s a leap of faith. I tithe, I go to church, I do all that. If it’s my time, it’s my time, but hopefully it ain’t.”
The footballer will not be making the journey alone, however; he first got the idea for the initiative after talking to marketing executive Jacob Beckley at a charity event.
Three years ago, Beckley spent 23 and a half hours crossing Lake Michigan in order to raise money for his own charitable foundation – and even though he vowed to never embark on the “treacherous” journey again, he agreed to join Tillman.
Tillman says that he is building his own boat as a means of saving money and raising more funds for their charitable goal. Since boats for this type of voyage generally cost about $80,000, he and his kids have been working together to build the vessel that will take them across the lake. Once it is completed, they will bring it to naval experts for a safety check before plotting out their “Row 4 Kids” expedition in accordance with the weather.
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