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Tag Archives: Saugatuck Rowing Club
The Saugatuck Rowing Club is justifiably proud of its championship teams.
Boats of all ages and with both genders have won countless medals, and earned national renown. Just the other day, the varsity girls 8+ captured an unprecedented 5th national title.
The Saugatuck SurviveOARS may never be US champions. But they are most definitely, absolutely positively, winners.
You can’t call women battling breast cancer — who get up early in the morning, train on the erg machine and the water, then go about their daily lives (including grueling treatment) — anything but champions.
The story began in January 2018. Mary Heery, a specialist at Norwalk Hospital’s Smilow Family Breast Health Center, is a huge advocate of fitness and exercise to help women deal physically and emotionally with the disease.
Knowing of Saugatuck Rowing’s many programs and community dedication. she called then-director of rowing Sharon Kriz.
“We pride ourselves on being able to teach anyone to row,” says Diana Kuen, who among many other professional and volunteer jobs is an SRC coach.
Club owner Howard Winklevoss was all in. Kriz asked Kuen to run the program.
Word spread quickly. But when 15 or so women walked through the door the next month, no one — not club officials or the novice rowers themselves — knew what to expect.
“Their bodies had been through a lot,” Kuen notes. “So we started on the erg (rowing) machine indoors. We wanted to build their confidence before they went on the water.”
They worked out on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. More women joined. They added Saturday sessions.
One day in the boathouse, master rower Kit Huber noticed them. She offered to help. At the next practice, world-class rower Susan Schmidt joined in. Dawn Watson joined them. Soon, a strong corps of experienced club members was involved.
“That made the program even more special,” says Kuen. “All of those people were giving back, sharing their wisdom.”
Saugatuck Rowing club is “always a happy plays,” Kuen adds. “This program made it even happier.”
By mid-May, the women were ready for the water. They felt empowered and strong.
The 6:30 a.m. start did not bother them. They were no longer breast cancer patients. They were rowers!
Every team needs a name, of course. Someone came up with the perfect one: Saugatuck SurviveOARS. That says it all.
“Cancer took something away from them,” Kuen says with admiration. “We gave something back.”
She notes, “Breast cancer can show up anywhere. Any woman is one mammogram away. If it hits me, I pray I have a community like this to support me.”
The SurviveOARS program empowered Asante Robinson to push her “physical and cerebral limits in a way no other sport has. The 3-year triple negative survivor is extremely grateful for both the opportunity to row, and the bonds she’s built.
Another woman joined as a survivor, then was re-diagnosed with breast cancer while rowing. Fortunately, Kuen says, she had the SRC community for support — and exercise to help her through.
The program continued this year, with a new goal: to compete in a regatta.
In early June, they did. Row for the Cure sponsors fundraisers around the country for the Susan G. Komen fund. This one was in Poughkeepsie.
Many of the racers are friends and relatives of women who had breast cancer. Some just want to help.
The SurviveOARS were the only boat filled — stem to stern — with survivors.
The large crowd was appreciative. As word spread, a cheer went up: “SurviveOARS!”
Other rowing clubs love the idea. Kuen and her colleagues are glad to help start similar programs elsewhere.
As for the Saugatuck SurviveOARS: There’s more to come. They’re being incorporated as a 501(c)(3).
And Kuen wants to buy the women their own boat.
A pink one.
(Kuen gives kudos to the master rower volunteers: Patrice Foudy, Kit Huber, Chris Howard, Camilla Klein, Barbara Nash, Caryn Purcell, Carol Randel, Allison Reilly, Karen Salsarula, Dan Schley, Susan Schmidt, Page Seyfried, Tonya Steiner, Liz Turner, Dawn Watson and Kari Williams.)
Among her many activities, Diana Kuen is the rowing coach for a group of breast cancer survivors. A couple of days ago, the “Saugatuck SurvivOARS” held their final water practice of the season, before winterizing their boats.
Amy Bauer stroked the boat for the first time — then headed off for her 5th chemo treatment.
This spring, the Survivors head to their first regatta: Row for the Cure, in Poughkeepsie, New York. Another one will follow in Washington, DC. Good luck to these remarkable women!
Alert “06880” reader and proud Saugatuck Rowing Club supporter Debbie McGinley reports from Racice, Czech Republic:
Today — thanks to great help from Saugatuck Rowing Club competitors — Team USA finished at the top of the medal count at the World Rowing Junior Championships.
Six SRC athletes were on the U-19 teams — including 4 from Westport.
Kelsey McGinley, captured gold in women’s (non-coxed) 4-. Harry Burke won silver (men’s 8+), as did Alin Pasa (coxswain, women’s 8+). Noelle Amlicke brings home a bronze (women’s 4+).
McGinley, Burke and Pasa graduated from Staples High School in June. Amlicke is a rising senior.
This was the 3rd world championships for McGinley and Burke. Both medaled in their previous 2 competitions.
The fun of the event is seeing many countries coming together, from Belarus and Romania to China, Australia and South Africa. Fans are decked out in national swag, with flags of all colors flying.
Earlier this month, Saugatuck Rowing Club’s junior women won the US youth 8+ championship in California. It was a remarkable 4th straight national title for the local club.
Two other boats medaled: the women’s youth lightweight 4+ earned a silver, and the men’s pair a bronze.
Nine of SRC’s champion rowers are from Westport.
Saugatuck Rowing is part of an area-wide hotbed of success. In fact, Rowing Magazine recently profiled 8 clubs on the I-95 corridor from Rye to Westport (and one in New Milford), with the headline “Connecticut Rules.”
The secret to their success, the story says, is “good water, good coaches and great athletes.”
“Fairfield County is an area of excellence,” notes Sharon Kriz, SRC’s director of rowing. “Everyone strives for the best, in everything they do.”
Rowing is a natural extension of that. But simply having “great kids, supportive parents and excellent facilities” is not all.
Since arriving in 2007, Kriz has developed an all-encompassing culture of sportsmanship and leadership. It filters down, from one group of rowers to the next. The boat that captured the 4th national title this month is completely different than the first winners in 2015.
Alumni return often, to pass along the lessons they’ve learned. All 7 summer staffers are former SRC rowers. Some are still in college. Others plan to be full-time coaches — hopefully, at the handsome Riverside Avenue club.
A mentorship program has moved from the girls to the boys, and now to the parents. Every new rower and adult is pared with an experienced one. The result is twofold, Kriz says: support and relationships.
In a high-powered, hard-driving area like Fairfield County, managing expectations can be hard, Kriz admits.
“We have 60 boys and 60 girls. Not all of them will be star rowers. That’s the nature of a competitive team.
“But if they’re passionate and work hard, they’ll get results. Good communication can alleviate some issues.”
Winning is not the main goal of the club, she says. But it flows from the SRC culture. And, she notes, “You have to learn how to lose in order to win.”
Saugatuck Rowing has plenty to offer, besides top-notch coaching, a clear and cohesive philosophy, and excellent equipment.
The facility itself is a draw. Parents — who come from several towns, besides Westport — can drop off their youngsters, go upstairs and work out themselves.
They can have a drink or meal at the restaurant, or just sit on the patio and gaze at the water. “It’s a special place,” Kriz says proudly.
Of course, the Saugatuck is also a tidal river.
“We’ve learned to adapt,” Kriz says. “Sometimes it’s pretty low. We make the best of it.”
But in the end, Saugatuck Rowing Club’s success — and draw — comes down to the people in the boats. And on land.
“We’ve got a great group of hardworking kids, coaches and support staff,” Kriz says. “I couldn’t be prouder of all of them.”
A celebration in honor of the life of Paul Green — the longtime Westporter who waged a defiant battle against Parkinson’s disease, before finally succumbing last month at 94 — is set for Sunday, June 10 (Saugatuck Rowing Club, 2 p.m.).
The site is perfect. The club is where Paul Green kept his strength, by rowing and working out every day.
And it is where he inspired all who knew him, of every age, by his determination and grace.
The public is warmly invited to attend.
Paul Green — one of Westport’s most beloved and inspirational citizens — died yesterday. He was 94.
More than 6 years ago, I chronicled Paul’s long — and strong — battle against a deadly disease. He continued fighting long after those words appeared. I wrote:
Nineteen years ago, Paul Green was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
His 1st reaction was to fight back.
His 2nd was to figure out how.
His 3rd was to apply what he’d learned: that movement like exercise and dance can slow the progression of that torturous disease.
Last night at the Saugatuck Rowing Club, Paul — 88 years young — was the star attraction. A video highlighting his avid, ongoing work was shown. It serves 2 purposes: educating Parkinson’s patients about the benefits of exercise, and raising funds for a foundation Paul started.
The non-profit is called Nevah Surrendah to Parkinson’s. The name honors Paul’s always-optimistic attitude — and pays homage to his hero Winston Churchill’s legendary exhortation. (And his accent. Paul also pronounces it “nevah surrendah” — he’s from Boston.)
The site was perfect. Rowing is one of the many activities that keeps Paul’s Parkinson’s in check. The Saugatuck club has been his home away from his Old Mill home for years.
The rowing community is a close and very friendly one. Paul is one of its true idols — and a real favorite. (Particularly with the ladies.)
Last summer, the Saugatuck Rowing Club was the site of another tribute to Paul, and his Nevah Surrendah foundation. Scenes from that event — and a July dance-and-exercise session at the Senior Center — have been incorporated into the compelling video that premiered last night.
The video begins with scenes of reggae artist Mystic Bowie and Zumba instructor Eddie Calle leading at the Senior Center. The music is infectious; the smiles are heartfelt, and the scenes of older men and women — some with caretakers, others with grandchildren — moving slowly but rhythmically to the sounds of ska are inspiring.
Paul hopes that the video will show others with Parkinson’s — or any movement disorder — how to exercise for improved balance, a positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle.
And as he’s done for nearly 2 decades, he’s helping others thrive.
“Paul is such an inspiration,” one of the rowers interviewed on the video says. “We think we’re working hard. Then we see him out on the water — with such a smile on his face!”
The same smile he wore all last night, as he greeted and danced his way through a throng of family members, friends and fans.
Diana Kuen’s blog is called Girl Reinvented.
That’s an apt name. In 2010 she quit her life running a successful publishing business, managing and producing travel sections for the New York Times and Boston Globe — with summers spent in the Hamptons, and winters snowboarding in Vermont — to take a long road trip across America.
She gave up her apartment. For nearly a year, she lived in a camper.
It was the first time she’d ever slowed down, and figured out what really mattered to her.
The epochal journey helped her rejuvenate the right side of her brain. “It sat pretty dormant for years while I ran in the hamster wheel,” Kuen says.
In the summer of 2016 — still exploring new passions — she learned how to sew. She also took a Brooklyn screen printing workshop (“because, why the hell not?”).
Kuen became so excited, she formed a textile company making whimsical dish towels. Soon her creations were in 120 Camping World stores nationwide.
Faith and risk have carried her far. All the way, in fact, to Westport.
While living with her brother in Fairfield, she found the Saugatuck Rowing Club. She fell in love with the neighborhood and its people.
Now she lives nearby. She rides her bike to the club, where she coaches rowing. She teaches standup paddleboard and runs clambakes for Downunder.
She’s also got her own textile business — 2, actually. There’s DishRaggs, and a charitable brand extension called CharityRaggs. She gives part of her earnings to worthy organizations, including Autism Speaks, animal rights and rescue groups, the National Breast Cancer Foundation, and Sandy Hook Promise.
“Each towel is a labor of love, a work of art, and a little piece of me,” Kuen says. “Think of DishRaggs the same way you might hang a framed picture on your wall.”
They’re fun and whimsical, with sayings, photos and logos.
And — because Kuen has just been here a few months, but loves “06880” (both the town and the blog) — there are a few special “06880” DishRaggs too. (With matching gift bag!) Each sale benefits this blog.
From now through November 15, Kuen offers 20% off all full-price DishRaggs (CharityRaggs excluded).
Get your holiday shopping done early! Find the perfect hostess gift! Support “06880”!
The next time you see the way cool — and very generous — Diana Kuen, be sure to thank her.
And welcome her to “06880.”