Row for Autism

Lily Labella , Contributing Writer

On Sunday, April 15, the Port Washington Rowing team was sadly informed that the Seventh Annual Row for Autism regatta would be cancelled due to inclement weather conditions.

The numerous weeks of preparation, organizing and training would be rendered obsolete when the athletes were told that it would be unsafe for them to race in such conditions.  More importantly, there would be no way to raise money and awareness for autism since the event was shut down.

Since its initiation in 2012, this originally small community event has become a spring-season opener for rowing clubs around the Tri-state area.  Since this has turned into such a huge event, it has had a major impact on those who take part in such a beneficial program, especially the Port Washington team.  The Port Rowing team looks forward to this event every year and the participants were devastated to know that it wouldn’t happen.

“We were all really looking forward to it.  We’ve been preparing to race for the last month or so and now we can’t even raise the money for autism,” said sophomore Justin Tawil.

Sponsored by the Town of North Hempstead and Friends of Port Rowing, the meet is held yearly in honor of National Autism Awareness Month and offers an adapted athletic experience to autistic participants.

Members of the Schreiber teams have volunteered as buddies for autistic rowers taking part in the adaptive program and planned to race against other boats in their divisions.  This year, parent volunteers set up a sales tent offering team merchandise, multiple raffle baskets, and rowing supplies.

Local food vendors, such as Mel’s Ice Cream and Rosie’s Grilled Cheese, were also on site.  The Weber and Schreiber girls and boys crew teams, averaging forty people to a team, were all in attendance and were even practicing while officials made calls concerning the cancellation.

The main regatta was arranged to be 2,000 meters, with eight people to a boat, and would have included heats of varying skill level such as Freshman, Novice, Junior Varsity, and Varsity.

All ages and skill sets were welcome to register, and the event would have hosted fifteen other teams from high schools, universities and clubs.  Unfortunately, the rough water made rowing unsafe, and the contests were called off after 10 a.m.

This year was freshman Janey Lituchy’s first year taking part at Row for Autism.

“[I thought it would be] a good way to start off the racing season,” said Lituchy.  

This is a common sentiment, especially since the races are held to raise awareness for a worthy cause and was bringing the entirety of Port Rowing together.

The funds from this year’s event will help Port Rowing in the expansion of their adaptive program, which specializes in involving teens with autism and other learning disabilities in the sport.

According to Ms. Holly Byrne, who has been an executive director since 2015, the organization hopes to purchase new recreational teaching boats, which would expand their unique program to other clubs.