Cofounder and Executive Director
“As a new-to-the-sport Masters Rower I was able to walk into a boathouse and someone handed me an oar - it was that simple. Ultimately, that is what PRF wants for all individuals with impairments.” Marilyn is Cofounder and Executive Director of Para Rowing Foundation.
Two overarching experiences for Marilyn were fundamental in creating PRF:
~ Decades of practice in prestigious hospitals as a critical care nurse were foundational to her desire to assist others in achieving their maximum well-being.
~Being freely handed an oar as a new Masters Rower and wanting that experience for individuals with disability.
Wanting to apply these experiences to athletes with disability in rowing, Marilyn asked a simple question - what do para athletes need to freely be a part of the rowing community and achieve their fullest potential? The answer was simple: a para athlete needs exactly what any athlete needs: Opportunities, Accessibility, and Expertise.
Creating a community of para rowers who can share in the joy of the sport, and each other, is the spirit of PRF. Adding practical resources and support for para rowers became the work of PRF.
Asking para athletes what they need informed Marilyn in developing accessibility to individualized intakes, intensive training opportunities, para trained coaching, an adaptive equipment loan program, sports psychology sessions, new equipment, and athlete grants.
Para Rowing Foundation is a passion project for Marilyn. She donates her time and finances to the cause.
Cofounder and Board Member
As a cofounder and board member of Para Rowing Foundation, Abby brings over 20 years of experience in the travel and hospitality industries to PRF’s athlete-centered philosophy.
Abby is a graduate of the Johnson & Wales University School of Hospitality and has worked in some of the top restaurants and wineries in the United States and Italy. Her work for the historic golf club, The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, led to her planning high-end private events, and executing food and beverage operations for PGA events. Abby honed her national and international logistics skills while working as a personal and executive assistant alongside Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School. She has a keen interest in nutrition and how nutrition affects athlete performance and mindset and is currently an estate manager.
Public service has always been part of Abby’s professional life. In the early part of her career, she volunteered for Community Servings, a nonprofit food program providing services to families living with critical illness. She volunteers her time as a restaurant recruiter for The Maine Course, a food event that raises funds to send underserved children to the Agassiz Village Summer Camp.
Through her work at restaurants, Abby was introduced to Marilyn Koblan in Parma, Italy. She was immediately interested in Marilyn’s work with the military and para rowing teams. The two began to explore a friendship and the great things that could happen if their talents merged to form a nonprofit focused on para rowers and their development as athletes emerged.
Before the launch of Para Rowing Foundation, Abby enrolled at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, earning her certificate in Transformational Nonprofit Leadership.
After rowing in college, Jovia wanted to continue participating in the world of rowing/sport which eventually led her to Boston where she was introduced to the world of Para Rowing by none other than Marilyn Koblan. In 2018, when she heard that Marilyn and Abby Gregory were moving forward with creating a nonprofit to benefit para rowers, Jovia jumped at the chance to volunteer. The new organization's meaningful work was to be informed by the athletes and their needs. After two years of volunteer work in a number of different capacities, she proudly accepted a position on the Board of Directors. She looks forward to many more years of exciting new opportunities in helping athletes have the best rowing experience possible.
Steven found his way to rowing during the pandemic in 2020. He quickly saw the opportunity to use indoor rowing as a way to bring people of all abilities around the world together and founded an international charity event, EnduRow Challenge. Inclusion is a passion of Steven’s as he has experience on the Global DEI strategy Advisory Board for the software company Sage, is an ambassador for Wings for Life, and lives with a high-level spinal cord injury following a cycling accident.
Inclusive rowing is PRF’s passion so a natural collaboration working towards inclusive rowing opportunities began to develop. In 2023, Steven accepted a position on the board and has continued to bring his enthusiasm, optimism, and connectivity to the PRF community