By Andreas Butler
For Hometown News
The Halifax Rowing Association is looking to expand its programs and gain community support.
In the boathouse known as the Halifax Rowing Center at 210 City Island Parkway next to the Courthouse Annex on City Island, the association has been in existence since 1994. The rowing center also is home to the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Crew.
The association, which has 40 master rowers from Ormond Beach to Edgewater, provides several programs along the Halifax River. The programs include Master (Adult) Membership, Youth Program (with schools), Adaptive Rowing (disabled), Learn To Row, Guest Membership, Private Lessons, Corporate/Team Building Workshops and Flywheel News. Annual membership fees apply for the rowers.
"It's a great opportunity. Rowing is the fastest growing sport for people 50 and older," said Ronn Bell, general manager/head coach. "We have an event in June called the 'Learn to Row' which is free. Then we have a six-week program. We also have a regatta at the end of July, which is famous in Florida and the only event of its kind here. It brings a lot of people to the area."
The organization wants to spotlight its two newest programs in the Youth and Adaptive Rowing programs.
"We are trying to reach out to high schools and the disabled to grow these programs. People know of us, but we haven't had a lot of community involvement. We want to let people know that we are here," Mr. Bell said.
The youth program has 25 children that attend local high and middle schools in the area. The kids attend Seabreeze High and Hinson Middle, both in Daytona Beach, and Spruce Creek High and Silver Sands Middle, both in Port Orange.
"The kids compete at the same competitions, but in different events depending on school age," Mr. Bell said. "They just had a competition in Orlando."
The Adaptive Rowing Program is composed of five people with four visually impaired and one a double amputee.
"We are just getting the word out," program member Ann Marie Medlar. "We need community awareness and donations. The adaptive rowing program is new and is really catching on around the nation."
Ms. Medlar is a blind member, who also serves as its volunteer fundraiser. She helped start the program.
"I help write grants and put together fundraisers. Hopefully funds will come in to help the program grow," she said. "About a year ago, I went and learned to skull. I suggested that we start a club for the disabled. We reached out to other organizations and got started."
The amputee on the team recently brought her own boat and she is no stranger to competition. She is two-time Paralympics silver medalist Nancy Olson.
"She is a two-time gold medalist in wheelchair tennis. She is a wheel chair tennis coach now. She says that she is no longer competitive, but I think that the fire still burns," Mr. Bell said.
The adaptive rowing program is having success.
"I try to get out on the water as much as possible," Ms. Medlar said. "It's amazing. I have learned the rhythm of rowing and how to control the boat as well as the commands. Rowing has helped me tone my body. It makes me feel ecstatic. I also feel like all my problems go away when I row."
All five disabled rowers medaled at a recent event in Melbourne," Mr. Bell said. "They are thrilled to be here. They were just sitting around. One of them is a diabetic who says he no longer needs insulin shots since working out with us. Rowing is good for their mental and physical health. The program allows them to be part of a team and motivates them," said Bell.
For more information on the association, visit www.halifaxrowing.org.