On Saturday April 21st the water ways of Hempstead Harbor were full of rowers for the First Annual Row for Autism. The Town of North Hempstead and Port Rowing coordinated the first USRowing sanctioned regatta on Long Island and in turn over 600 competitors and 1000 spectators walked the promenade and gathered on our beaches. The race held great meaning for many of the attendees and participants, because this event supported the opportunity to give children with Autism a chance to row. All the proceeds raised that day went towards the development of a summer adaptive rowing program run by Port Rowing.
The races started at 8 am with middle school and high school events and were capped off by local adaptive rowers Michael Kessaris and Tyler Wittels. The crowd of over 1000 cheered on the beach as these young men rowed with their Port Rowing mentors up and down North Hempstead Beach. Supervisor Kaiman and Councilwoman DeGiorgio were there to launch the kids out and greet them with handshakes and medals after the race.
Dimitri Kessaris, Michael’s father, said “Watching my son out there rowing on the water was a great gift today. This program has helped him in so many ways.”
It was a great sight to see local police, fire, and EMS volunteers at the water to assist in the event. USRowing veteran official Dan Thompson was quoted saying “This was the best first time run regatta that I have seen in my 40 years of rowing. They have things here that 10 year regattas have not figured out yet, I look forward to many more events here.”
The day’s racing consisted of 7 Long Island teams that included local favorites Port Rowing and Chaminade. Port Rowing had a strong performance winning 16 out of 22 events with key victories in the freshmen eights, varsity women’s eight, and the light weight men’s eight. Port enters its second season with high expectations to return to the State championship podium in Saratoga. Chaminade had a strong performance in the heavyweight eight race and looked like a strong contender for another state championship crew. The race of the day was between these two programs as the lightweight men’s eight battled within seats of each other with only 300 meters to go. Port was able to pull away in the last 20 strokes to claim the hard fought victory. (Click here for all race results)
Degiorio said,” It is not only amazing to host a regatta in these waters but to have two crews of such high caliber rowing right here in Hempstead Harbor.”
Port Rowing coach and regatta director Steve Panzik said,” This is where rowing should be, the first race in the US took place right here on Long Island in 1811, we want that history brought back to our shores. This regatta does not take place without the effort of town and all the great people that worked tirelessly to make sure this event happened, the eyes of rowing now fall here to Long Island.”
If you would like to make a donation to the Adaptive program or find out more information you can go to www.portrowing.com.