Kindness Abounds – Rowing After Diagnosis program

This past Sunday, January 29th, cold rain didn’t keep people from meeting under the bridge at MacWilliam Park Boat Basin for an introduction to the newest program for women who are survivors of  breast cancer and female cancers.  Jay Knoll, the man who was instrumental in beginning this connection with Friends After Diagnosis, as well as Laura Moss, Mayor of Vero Beach, were present and totally supportive of all the cancer survivors, caregivers, and significant others.  For me, this was the welcome discovery of a group of people who love the sport of rowing.  What enthusiasm!  This event had been thoughtfully planned to introduce novices like myself to the therapeutic benefits and pleasure of group rowing.  Thanks to Kat, the program coordinator, sign up was easy and came with an offer of snacks and water to anyone needing them.

Gary Marra, our rowing instructor, gave us a brief overview of rowing activities in Vero Beach, and then demonstrated the correct body movements needed to row without injury.  Essential to know since all of us are beginners.  His relaxed speaking style and sense of humor drew out our spirit of adventure, so there was no hesitation when an invitation to practice on stationary rowing machines was issued.  Every stationary machine had a helper standing by to remind us of the series of correct moves.  As a retired high school teacher, I was touched by how many high school students had come out on a cold day to help and encourage those of us who were doing this for the first time.  Applause to the teens!

With gratitude I accepted the tactful remarks of my student helper who needed to remind me I was out of rhythm because one of the six steps had been forgotten.  Imagine my pleasure when, after a few more minutes of practice, I managed to get into the rhythm of the six steps and had a glimpse of the delight it is to glide across the water in perfect rowing harmony.

Much to everyone’s surprise, we were next invited down to the dock where two long boats were located.  Behind the scenes a group of people had gone to the boat storage area and brought boats to the water for us to begin to get the feel of the oar motion in water.  By this time I was so absorbed with this new sport that I had forgotten how cold I was when I first arrived.  This is from someone who feels the need for a sweater in Publix.  Once again, every participant was carefully directed by a personal coach on how to enter the boat, sit, and line the oar up with the water.  The patience and constant humor of the helpers kept the whole exercise relaxed and enjoyable, whetting everyone’s appetite for the class. I didn’t know I could have so much fun staying in one spot.

During our time together two announcements were made.  With a spirit of generosity, Gary and Lin invited everyone present to participate in this rowing class.  That meant my husband and I could do this together – the enjoyment level just increased again!  This was kindness that encompassed the truth that when one member of the family has cancer, everyone is affected and involved.  It firmly acknowledged the pivotal part of family members, particularly the main caregivers. Then another kindness emerged.  Jay, along with his wife, offered matching funds up to $5,000.00 for the purchase of a boat by Friends After Diagnosis for the program.  At this point I was speechless, which doesn’t happen often.

As we drove over the bridge on our way home, my husband and I reviewed the many kindnesses we had experienced in 1 ½ hours.  We had ingested so much positive energy that we were on an emotional high and looking forward to the first class on February 11, 2017.  Hope you will join us!

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