Tag Archives: Saugatuck Rowing Club

Great New Festival Shines A Light On Cribari Bridge

Westport is filled with holiday treats. But the lights on the Cribari Bridge outshine nearly every other winter wonder.

Ever since Al DiGuido and a crew of volunteers first hung hundreds of bulbs all over the historic span nearly 20 years ago, however, the actual lighting has been a low-key affair.

This year, there will be a very impressive ceremony.

No, it won’t rival the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center.

Ours will be better.

The William F. Cribari Bridge, in all its holiday glory. (Photo/JD Dworkow)

This Friday (November 29, 6:30 p.m.), Westporters are invited to the Saugatuck Rowing Club. There on the patio — with a perfect view of the Cribari Bridge — there’s hot cocoa, spiked cocoa, Saugatuck Sweets sundaes, Donut Crazy donuts, cookies, popcorn, a hot dog cart, live music, a cash bar and more.

The actual lighting takes place at 8 p.m. But the party lasts till 9:30.

Kids go free. It’s $20 for adults — but 100% of the proceeds benefit Al’s Angels. That’s the organization founded by bridge lighter (and Saugatuck Sweets owner) Al DiGuido. All funds help children and families battling cancer, rare blood diseases, natural disasters and severe financial hardships.

The Cribari Bridge lights were created as a symbol of hope for all in town.

Let’s hope there’s a huge turnout of angels on Friday, when Al turns on the lights.

(For tickets and more information on Saugatuck Rowing Club’s Bridge Lighting Festival, click here.)

Another view. (Photo/Joel Treisman)

 

Roses Are Pink, The River Is Too

Every spring, the Sunrise Rotary Club fills the Saugatuck River with plastic yellow ducks. It’s a cute, fun fundraiser.

Well, Diana Kuen thought: If they can do that, what about rose petals?

She is the director and head coach of the Survive-OARS — Saugatuck Rowing Club’s breast cancer survivor rowing program.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink is its symbol — and the color of roses. What better way, Diana asks, to commemorate all of the warriors, past and present, who have been impacted by breast cancer than to turn our river pink?

And at the same time, raise money for charity.

Saugatuck Rowing Club Survive-OARS work out, on a beautiful day.

The 1st annual River of Roses Soiree is set for Saturday, October 5 (4 to 8 p.m., Saugatuck Rowing Club). Proceeds benefit the Saugatuck Survive-OARS program, in partnership with the Smilow Family Breast Health Center at Norwalk Hospital.

The sun sets at 6:30. Right before then, anyone who has purchased a rose petal will be invited to the dock, to help scatter hundreds. The high tide will carry them — biodegradable and freeze-dried — out to Long Island Sound.

The Survive-OARS team will read the names of everyone being honored.

That’s an important ceremony. But the event is also a celebration. Hummock Island will provide oysters — which they’ll shuck right there — plus champagne (sparkling rosé, very fitting) thanks to Chandon California. Cocktails are courtesy of TUCK Gini (named after the SaugaTUCK River), and Blue Ice Vodka.

The rowing club will serve clam chowder, lobster bisque and seasonal soup. Dessert includes apple strudel, and a huge wall donated by Donut Crazy.

Live music is courtesy of Fake ID, while Design Within Reach is loaning patio furniture. Le Boudoir Blow Dry Bar has offered to do ladies’ hair before thee vent.

A few of the rose petals, during a test run in the Saugatuck River.

Diana made sure to get approval for the petals from conservation director Alicia Mozian. A short time after that enthusiastic okay, the Saugatuck River suffered back-to-back sewage leaks.

“Now more than ever,” Diana says, “Westport will appreciate a river filled with beautiful rose petals, packed with powerful antioxidants and antiseptic properties!’

Not to mention, a great cause backed by some wonderful, very courageous women.

(To purchase tickets to the event, and/or rose petals — including those in honor of someone, even if you can’t attend — click here. To volunteer, email Dkuen@saugatuckrowing.com

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Saugatuck Rowing Club sky, last night (Drone photo/Ward French)

Westport Women SurviveOARS

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.

The breast cancer survivors formed very tight bonds.

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.

Diana Kuen watches her rowers with pride. (Photo/John Mongeau for CT NBC)

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 are a very tight-knit group. (Photo/Greg Cork)

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 SurviveOARS are all smiles in Poughkeepsie. (Photo/Michael Bauer)

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.)

Bonus photo: The Saugatuck Rowing Club national champion varsity girls 8+ team.

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The Cribari Bridge, from the Saugatuck Rowing Club (Photo/Ward French)

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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!

(Photos/Diana Kuen)

Saugatuck Rowers Win At Worlds

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+).

Alin Pasa (bottom right) and teammates celebrate their silver medal.

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.

The McGinley family — includinig parents and grandparents — traveled to the Czech Republic to cheer on Kelsey and her fellow rowers.

Saugatuck Rowing’s Success: It’s In The (Fairfield County) Water

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.

Staples High School senior Kelsey McGinley, at US Rowing’s youth national championship.

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.

Saugatuck rowers embrace after the youth 8+ national championship race. Behind them, director of rowing Sharon Kriz carries oars,

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.”

Staples High School senior Isabelle Grosgogeat is coxswain on the national champion boat.

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.”

Director of rowing Sharon Kriz (far right) and junior girls head coach Gordon Getsinger (far left) pose with Saugatuck Rowing Club’s graduating seniors. All wear the logos of the colleges they’ll attend.

Paul Green Memorial Service Set For June 10

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

 

Remembering Paul Green

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.

Paul Green, hard at work at the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

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.

Paul Green, keeping active in the boathouse he loves.

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.

Interviews with Paul’s neurologist, Dr. Amy Knoor; his physical therapist, Tara Maroney and his chiropractor Dr. Joshua Lander prove that Paul has not only nevah surrendahed — he’s thrived.

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.

Paul Green and his son Peter.