By Lizzie Simons, Community Program Coordinator
If December is called the Season of Giving, then November at Row New York can be called the Season of Gratitude. Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving with an intra-club scrimmage dubbed The Meadow Lake Challenge. This Sunday we shared our largest annual fundraising event with The Armory at Run Row New York, and on Veterans Day Alex Olijnyk and I woke up at 5 AM to make our contribution at the NYC Veterans Day Parade.
The preceding Thursday, we had gone to a volunteer meeting to find out what our roles would be. I had expected to be handing out flags, some spirited yet menial task meant for a novice volunteer, but instead, we hit the ground running when assigned to the Review Stand. Honored guests such as Dr. Edwin Eugene Aldrin, Jr (You may know him better as Buzz) and Air Force Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski were among the visitors to this platform. Security was a priority; knowing which guests needed to be where at what time, and allowing the correct guests and their handlers on the stand was our responsibility. Perhaps because rowers are expected to understand teamwork, to take directive, and execute good timing, we were entrusted with this task. Whatever the reason, the experience was incredible.
New York City’s Veterans Day Parade is organized by the United War Veterans Council, which is made up of veterans of every branch of the military as well as Gold Star parents. Their mission is to mobilize our communities to honor, support, and serve America’s Veterans. They also put on a really well-run event. I come from a small town where parades are a big deal. For several years I helped my Alma Mater’s rowing association assemble our float in the holiday parade. We were given a task, we all knew our jobs, our finished product was always beautiful. I thought we were good. The precision and execution of the Veterans Day Parade has shown me how wrong I was. What more should we expect from an organization and a group of volunteers made almost entirely of veterans, though? These extraordinary people excel at teamwork for the greater good.If it is hard to find the words to express what our service members do for our country, it is just as hard to show our gratitude in a tangible way. At Row New York we are making an attempt.
USRowing’s Freedom Rows program aims to get more Veterans rowing. This winter we launch our first Freedom Rows program at the Manhattan Veterans Affairs campus with indoor rowing programs which will progress to on-water training this coming spring. Programs for both able-bodied and adaptive Veterans will be offered at multiple Row New York locations.