Rowing for Sandy Relief

Schools and Libraries

February 11, 2013


In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the Long Beach Public Schools athletic department was especially hard-hit, losing five of its six gymnasiums, as well as equipment and uniforms for most of its athletic teams. The seaside district located on the south shore of Long Island recently received welcome relief from an organization in another seaside community on the island’s north shore. Friends of Port Rowing, a rowing club based out of Port Washington, raised $10,000 to help the district’s athletic department on the road to recovery.


Friends of Port Rowing is a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 to give boys and girls in grades 7-12 the opportunity to participate in competitive rowing. Since its inception, the organization has also had a secondary mission of service to its community. In their founding year, crew members participated in an ergathon — the rowing equivalent of a walkathon — to raise money to buy their own boats. Last year, they initiated a "Row for Autism" regatta. This year, after witnessing the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, they were inspired to put their rowing talents to work to help Long Beach athletes. Approximately 75 crew members and 20 adults participated in an ergathon, rowing a combined total of 1 million meters (approximately 621 miles) in the course of the seven-and-a-half-hour event.


Friends of Port Rowing made the connection with Long Beach Public Schools through Port Washington School District’s Director of Athletics Stephanie Joannon and Board of Education President Karen Sloan, who is also a Friends of Port Rowing board member. Joannon, who had been in touch with Long Beach Athletic Director Arnold Epstein, heard firsthand from him about the losses his teams had sustained. Having worked so hard to raise money for their own equipment, Friends of Port team members — many of whom are students in the Port Washington School District — were especially touched to hear about the Long Beach students’ overwhelming loss.


“We always talk about giving back,” said Steve Panzik, a coach and executive director of Friends of Port Rowing. “As a coach, you want your athletes to learn life skills, ethics, teamwork and sportsmanship, and to extend a helping hand to teammates and opponents alike when they are down. How the Long Beach student-athletes have come together with their community to rebuild is inspiring. We hope that the money we raised will help them come back better than ever.”


“We are so proud of our student-athletes who are members of the crew team,” added Joannon. “They took the initiative to step up to help fellow students from another school in their time of need. It is inspiring to see athletes from different shores reaching out to help one another.”


“We congratulate our team for this amazing accomplishment,” said Sloan. “Most of the students who participated in the ergathon are Port Washington students, and therefore a proud reflection of our schools.”


The Long Beach School District hosted a special reception to thank the Friends of Port Rowing for their generous donation. Accompanying student representatives of the rowing team were Joannon, Sloan, Friends of Port Rowing board member Ted Rosenthal, boys varsity rowing coach Darren Gary, and head girls varsity rowing coach Briana Pittman. Long Beach High School trumpeter Jesse Klirsfeld opened the ceremony with a heartfelt rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Long Beach student-athlete Adam Salvadori welcomed the rowing team and thanked them for their support. Epstein, Long Beach Superintendent David Weiss and Long Beach Board of Education Vice President Darlene Tangney also expressed their gratitude.


“We’ve received many donations over the last few months,” said Epstein, “but the ones that mean so much to us are the ones that come from other students. We admire you for the work you do to help others.”


“I extend our thanks to you for choosing Long Beach as the recipient of your services,” added Weiss. “For us, this recovery has been a marathon event. Celebrating moments like this have helped us move toward normalcy again. The efforts you have made on our behalf will help our athletes keep pushing to overcome the many obstacles they still face.”