Although Deb Libaire, president and operations manager of Little Red Dog Foundation, says she likes the direct nature of her organization (“It does one thing and does it well.”), Deb herself wears many hats at LDRF. In her more than four years with LDRF she’s handled clerical responsibilities, grant writing and fundraising in addition to her leadership duties.
“I work with therapists, teachers, parents and caregivers on applications for specialized trikes,” says Deb. “I order the trikes after the recipient is assessed and measured and coordinate with the Beaufort Kiwanis Club volunteers who assemble them for us. Then we deliver them either to the therapist to fit the recipient or the school or directly to the new owner.”
Although it might seem that she’s a one-woman show, Deb is quick to praise LDRF volunteers.
“The Beaufort Kiwanis Club has a group of about 10 to 15 volunteers who put together more than 50 cycles each year. Some are very complicated and all are customized so it can be very time consuming, but they never say no,” she says. “Our treasurer, Nancy Hansen, handles all the finances, tax filings, bill paying, etc.; and our presidents emeriti, Anne Guthrie and Harriett Hilton, are always available for advice and input.”
Deb is also grateful to the many Lowcountry private donors and foundations that help raise the funds for the cycles.
“We have never said no to a qualified applicant to date and 100 percent of donations go to purchasing cycles.”
The Little Red Dog Foundation was started with a mission to create mobility and independence for the disabled. The organization provides specially equipped three-wheeled cycles for people who are mobility challenged. Use of the cycles can improve circulation, increase body strength, expand range of motion and improve endurance, all of which can lead to increased self-esteem and feelings of independence and accomplishment.
“The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing and hearing about the results of people using these trikes,” says Deb. “It affects their physical health and mental health. For example, children who are mobility impaired don’t have to be sidelined during gym. They can ride cycles, indoors or out, with or without assistance, depending on their limitations. Adults who are mobility impaired are able to regain some active freedom.”
Following an accident last summer when Deb was unable to walk for a few months, she had firsthand experience of the many issues that people who are mobility challenged face every minute of every day.
“It also reminded me of the enormous effort involved in caring for anyone with these limitations,” she says. “I hope that what LDRF does for children and adults who are mobility impaired also helps their caregivers.”
Born on Long Island, New York, Deb worked as an interior designer for more than 30 years in New York while also collecting and selling vintage costume jewelry. Her experience serving on Long Island boards for Planned Parenthood, Suffolk Hearing and Speech Center and The Boys and Girls Club of the Bellport Area prepared Deb for her work with LDRF.
Deb and Jack, her husband of 44 years, started dating right after college. Jack is a sales agent for Wise Batten Inc. in Estill, SC. The couple moved to Beaufort eight years ago from New York.
“We love the Lowcountry,” Deb says. “It feels like the old Long Island where we grew up on the water hunting, fishing and sailing. We also enjoy being around so many people with similar interests.”
They are parents to three grown children — Jardine Libaire, 41, lives in Austin, Texas, and is an author and works in public relations; Julien Libaire, 38, lives in Charleston, SC, and is an international stock trader; and Jake Libaire, 36, and wife Erin live in Charleston. Jake is a Development Manager and Erin teaches at Ashley Hall.
Deb’s future goals are as focused as she says LDRF is. She wants to continue to meet the needs of children and adults in the Lowcountry who have mobility challenges.