Today’s news:

Forest Hills man plans Africa−to−NY rowing trip

Forest Hills resident Victor Mooney set off for the trip of a lifetime Tuesday afternoon.

Mooney, 43, plans to row a 24−foot vessel 8,000 miles from Senegal to Brooklyn in as few as 20 weeks to raise awareness for HIV⁄AIDS and global warming. He flew from John F. Kennedy International Airport Tuesday to Dakar, Senegal, in western Africa, where he will begin his trip.

“As part of my mission, I want to push for 1 million people to be tested for HIV⁄AIDS, 1 million people in sub−Saharan Africa to have access to treatment for HIV⁄AIDS and 1 million trees to be planted worldwide,” Mooney said as he loaded an assortment of large duffel bags, maps and a fishing rod onto several carts at JFK.

For Mooney, the voyage is personal. One of his brothers died in 1983 from complications due to AIDS, and another brother is now HIV−positive.

“Many people know someone who’s living with this disease or has died because of this disease, but more awareness needs to be raised,” Mooney said.

After Mooney’s trip expenses are paid, he said he will donate the money he raises to AIDS charities.

This is a trip he has long wanted to make and, in fact, he has tried the voyage once before. Three years ago, Mooney left Senegal to row to Brooklyn, but the boat he built in his garage was damaged just five hours after he launched. Mooney was able to catch the attention of a nearby freighter and he was rescued by the Senegalese Navy.

This time around, Mooney said, it will be different.

He has a 1,500−pound boat designed by naval architects and crafted by professional boat builders from a company named Composite Yacht. He has trained for six hours a day for years, knows his nautical maps like the back of his hands and has stocked his boat with everything from government radios and satellite phones to military freeze−dried food and a laptop that will bring him daily weather reports and provide him a contact to the outside world, including his wife and four children.

“He’s a dreamer,” Mooney’s wife, Su−Ping Mooney, said. “So I let him dream. I just want him to came back safe. I get nervous, because he’ll only be able to sleep a couple hours every day and he could get sick. That’s why I gave him things like ginseng to take with him.”

Mooney, a public affairs official at the ASA Institute of Business and Computer Technology, anticipates the first week of the trip will be one of the hardest, which is why the man he calls his spiritual adviser, Pastor Herbert Daughtry of The House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, is going to be asking everyone from imams to priests to fast during that week in support of Mooney.

“Most people spend their lives in shallow waters,” Daughtry said. “They don’t attempt anything great. To attempt to do great things, like Victor is doing, means you’ve already achieved success.”

Daughtry said his congregation is especially supportive of Mooney’s efforts.

“AIDS has ravaged my church,” Daughtry said. “We have a mother who lost three daughters to AIDS and then a granddaughter to AIDS.”

Mooney will blog about his trip while on the high seas, and individuals can follow him at www.goreechallenge.com.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e−mail at agustafson@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 174.

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