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A Long Row For a Good Cause
June 09, 2012
OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - This time of year, most junior rowers are focused on their end of the year championship regattas. Reid Yankowski is no different.
In the past four weeks, Yankowski and his Buffalo, N.Y. based Canisius High School teammates have rowed in the scholastic national championships, the Canadian high school championships and this week they are at Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for the 2012 USRowing Youth National Championships.
“It’s been very busy,” said Canisius coach Dan Grosenbaugh. “We’ve been racing every weekend for the past month or so.”
But while this regatta will mark the end of the scholastic and club junior racing season, Yankowski and rowers from his high school, along with a group from McQuaid Jesuit High School, have one more row to go – a very long one and for a good cause.
They are going to row 340 miles down the Erie Canal in the hopes of raising money to help fund the search for a cure for juvenile diabetes.
“But we’re not focused on that right now,” Yankowski said. “We’ve got youth nationals this week. We’re excited for it, but it’s not what we’re focused on right now.”
Don’t get him wrong. Yankowski has been planning this since last fall when he was trying to find something to do between the end of school and when he goes to visit his father in Texas for the summer.
“I was thinking about what I could do for the summer before I leave for Texas and that just left me the month of June. I thought it would be fun to go for a long row and the Erie Cannel is really close to where I live and I thought it would be fun to row down it. It’s 340 miles and it would be fun to hang out with some of our friends and do something that would make us stronger.”
Yankowski said he began planning the logistics for the trip and asking his friends who would like to go with him back in September. Then one of the group came up with the idea that the experience would be more meaningful if they dedicated the row to a cause.
“My friend has some friends who have diabetes and my neighbor suffers from Type 1 Diabetes,” he said. And so the team decided to contact the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which signed on for the project and developed a website where people could donate on line.
Then in December, the Canisius team decided to invite a team from high school rival McQuaid. “We thought it would be fun to get to know different people. Our schools are alike and they are also from upstate New York. And,” Yankowski said, “it also increased our ability to raise money.”
The original goal was to raise $25,000, but they boys exceeded that and are now aiming their sights on $50,000. The plan is to row two fours with a team of six athletes from Canisus and seven from McQuaid.
In addition to Yankowski, participating in the row will be Canisus rowers Jack Ruh, Mark Hirschbeck, Jack Sardinia, Sam Hausmann and Owen Ogiony and McQuaid rowers Cameron Pizzo, Greg Klumpp, Loudon Blake, Andrew Dardaris, Tommy Davis, Steven DiFiore and Grant Gifford.
They plan is to start their trip from the University of Buffalo boathouse on Tonawanda Creek on June 14, and average 42 miles a day until they reach Waterford on June 21.
The boys plan on camping along the way and will be followed by a support team headed up by Canisius High School Rowing Club Head Coach Tom Flaherty.
“It's inspiring to witness two rival crews, fierce competitors, shake hands and work together for a common goal,” said Flaherty. “Their teamwork transcends good sportsmanship.
“These young men understand what is truly important in life and are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to make a positive difference and help cure a terrible disease. I am proud to have the opportunity to watch such great kids take on such an incredible challenge for an important and selfless cause.”
To contribute to the cause, visit http://bit.ly/rowcanal