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Rowing with heart & soul

Thanks to donor support, Western rowers train in new boats after most of their fleet was destroyed in a highway accident

July 10, 2013

Rowing with heart & soul
Western rowers, such as Sara Matovic, practise in boats replaced through the generosity of donor support. In February 2012, many of Western’s training boats were destroyed in a highway accident.

For Dan Bechard, the sound was deafening. A cacophony of snaps and cracks filled the air, as a trailer full of carbon-fibre rowing boats cartwheeled off a Tennessee highway and crashed in a nearby ditch.

Within seconds, the loud breaking sounds turned to eerie silence, as Dan and students from Western’s rowing team looked at the mangled mess of boats.

“It was a freak accident. The boat trailer I was pulling behind a van disengaged and flew into a ditch,” says Dan, a development coach with Row to the Podium, who was bringing a crew of Western athletes to a training camp in Georgia. “Fortunately, no one was hurt.”

Rowers to the rescue
Thanks to the generosity of an American rowing club, the athletes continued on to Georgia and completed their training camp (in February 2012).

Volker Nolte Pull Quote

The reality of losing the boats sunk in when they returned to Western.

“My teammates wondered if we could get new boats in time for next season,” says Graham Schenck, president of the student rowing club. “It sounded almost impossible.”

“We lost almost our entire fleet of training boats, which we used to teach technique and evaluate progress,” says Volker Nolte, the team’s head coach. “Without new boats, our training for competitions would have been compromised.”

Donor generosity delivers new boats
Through a concerted effort last spring, more than $65,000 was raised, including $35,000 from insurance – enough to replace the nine destroyed boats with 11 replacements.

“All the donors are former Western rowers who knew what this loss meant to our athletes,” says Volker. “I’m proud of how our alumni have supported the team through the years, and particularly when we needed them most.”

Among the donors is Heather Cartwright, BA’93, who serves on the campaign executive of Be Extraordinary, Western’s fundraising campaign. She donated two boats, which have been named Heart and Soul.

“Her generous gift built momentum for our fundraising,” adds Volker. “We are where we are today – with probably the best rowing fleet in the country – because of everyone’s support.”

On the water again
The current rowing team also stepped forward. “As student-athletes, we decided to put all of our yearly fundraising efforts toward this cause,” says Graham, a fourth-year Mustangs rower.

In September 2012, 11 replacement boats were christened, giving Western’s rowers a boost for the new rowing season.

“Seeing how rowing alumni came to our aid says something about the type of community we belong to,” adds Graham, “and it makes us more grateful and confident when we’re on the water, knowing we can be our best because of the support we’ve received.”


This article appeared in the Summer 2013 edition of Impact Western
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