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Saturday, March 29, 2014

WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME – GREAT, UNLESS IT’S THE EMERGENCY ROOM

You know the song from “Cheers.” As the song goes, you want to go where everybody knows your name. It’s about that hometown feeling, having a sense of place, and what a satisfying feeling it is to walk into a place and have everyone know you. That is great. Unless, of course, that place is the emergency room.


I went my entire childhood without visiting the ER for any broken bones, fractures or injuries. My first visit was as a law student with kidney stones (you do NOT want to be 21 years old, at St. Vincent’s in NYC, suffering from kidney stone agony and trying to study for a law school exam while gunshot victims from a Chinese gang shooting are being wheeled in. But that’s another story for another blog).

Even my brother, who wrestled for a large public middle school and high school from 7th grade to 12th grade, did not have a childhood visit to the ER. (I believe his first visit was as a young married dad, while visiting Spain, when he tried to climb a window to get back into the villa they had locked themselves out of. It was not a successful climb)

My husband played JV basketball, youth baseball and was a youth QB but never visited the ER during childhood.

And yet when my husband walked into St. Luke’s ER during the week with Christian, the receptionist said, “Oh hello, young man, back again?” OK, she didn’t actually remember my son’s name but she remembered the face. After all, it was Christian’s 5th trip in eight months. Thank God we have good health insurance. There have been 4 trips due to football (one broken finger, one sprained calf muscle, bruised ribs and fractured ribs).

You know, I had been so happy when my oldest caught the basketball bug. Mainly, because I love, love, love high school basketball. But I also loved that hitting is not part of the sport, as it is in football. Mind you, I didn’t say basketball is not a “contact sport,” because that phrase has lost all meaning to me. Rowing is not a contact sport. However, people get concussions, because it is so easy to get hit in the back of the head with a 12-foot long oar or a 65-foot long crew shell. I have been hit in the back more than once and let me tell you it hurts like the dickens. I also wouldn’t call football a contact sport. It is beyond a contact sport -- it is a hitting sport.

What I’m saying is, you can get injured playing any sport. I know an Irish step dancer, a high school girl, who danced all St. Patrick’s Day on a brutally bruised and swollen toe. She would ice it, put her shoes back on and go back out and dance. And no one was going to stop her. Basically, unless you are very lucky, if your kid plays a sport, he or she is probably going to get injured. The only question is how are you going to handle it.

Back to my story. During basketball practice this week, Christian took an elbow to the face and his nose started bleeding and swelling. At this point, Anthony left it up to him. “Is this a trip home or a trip to the Emergency Room?,” he asked our son. Christian opted for the ER. And why not? St. Luke’s is right on the way home, the staff is incredibly pleasant, we never have to wait and, well, they know him. When I go, I like to bring my Cheetos and my trashy magazines, spread out in the waiting room, and kind of enjoy the downtime. What can I say, we have a whole different perspective on the whole Emergency Room thing. I’m not going to say I have fun there, but it’s just a minor step up from going to the pediatrician’s.

Bottom line, Christian had maybe a hairline fracture, and the main thing was for him to get lots of ice and some rest. Maybe a faceguard (good luck getting him to wear that thing). Anthony asked how long he would be out for and the answer was he doesn’t have to sit out at all. Which is good. Not because we’re trying to win a championship but because my son becomes a ball of nervous energy if he’s not playing sports. It’s an important part of his life, and if it’s important to him then it’s important to us.

And Michael? He likes sports but he doesn’t have the same burning drive to compete. He thoroughly enjoys his activities though. He loves sculling, swimming, skating and Irish step dancing. Someone asked him recently if anyone made fun of him for being in Irish step dancing. “Why would they do that?” Michael asked. “Some kids are like that,” the grown up answered. Michael thought about it. It was clearly a foreign concept. “Well, everybody wishes they knew how to do the Jig,” he said. “And besides, my brother said if anybody makes fun of me just come and tell him.” Why, asked the grown up, is your brother going to beat them up? “Oh no,” said Michael confidently, “he’s going to sue them.” That way, of course, no one ends up in the Emergency Room. After all, I just depleted my stock of Cheetos and People magazine.

Have a great day, everyone! And as always, remember to Count Your Blessings!  Mrs. Lo (Photo of Christian at AAU Newburgh Panthers practice). Join us all weekend for Newburgh AAU Basketball as the Newburgh Panthers take on the Newburgh Zion Lions, today at 8:30 am and 1:30 pm at NYMA, and Sunday at 9:45 am at Sacred Heart. 
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Saturday, March 22, 2014

LESSONS FROM A CREW MOM

 In 2013, I had the distinct honor of being featured as one of the “Crew Moms of the Year” by USRowing, the governing body of the sport of rowing, thanks to rower Frankie Maurice.   This was truly humbling, as there are so many deserving crew moms out there.  To give the general public an idea of what the mantle “crew mom” means, let me borrow the intro from USRowing’s piece on Crew Moms:  “Crew Mom is no ordinary mom. She wakes up early and stays up late – preparing, collaborating, organizing and perfecting. She shuttles sons and daughters to the boathouse for practice. She travels to regattas. She deciphers the race schedule. She waits. She cheers! You can find her at the team tent, stirring a big pot of [fill in the blank] on a chilly morning. Or with the race volunteers, selling tickets and t-shirts, or parking cars. Crew Mom does it all. Maybe she is your mom, maybe not.” – USRowing May 13, 2013

               Spring Crew Season in the Hudson Valley starts today, with the indoor meet.  This year, Mrs. Lo will be a program director, for the America Rows Newburgh program.  My oldest (who got us all started in the sport of rowing)  will be playing travel basketball for the Newburgh Panthers AAU team this spring; and Michael, at age 10, is in the Learn to Row program, which is non-competitive.  I still have a lot of work to do for crew season, but it is in the nature of grant-writing and fundraising to keep the program alive, marketing and publicity to keep it in the public eye, and taking 6 kids to the America Rows Mid Atlantic Regatta in Baltimore the first weekend in May.  And of course, I will help out where needed.  My biggest food project will be the Lasagna for the Eastern NYS High School championship in May, which is the largest athletic event in the City of Newburgh, bringing in over 1,000 people.  For all the new crew moms and all those considering becoming one, here is Mrs. Lo’s advice for spring crew season which, incidentally, can be applied to other areas of life:
1.     FORCE YOURSELF TO REST.  Remember when you had babies and they told you to sleep when your baby sleeps?  The same thing applies to crew parents.  Get to bed early and nap when you can because you will be up anywhere between 4 am and 5 am for morning practice and sometimes 3:30 when you have to be at the Boathouse at 4:30 am.  You know you’re a crew mom when you look at the schedule and get excited about a 7:30 am coxswains meeting because it means you get to “sleep in.”
2.    BREATHE.  And remember you’re human.  You can’t do it all.  You can’t even think about trying to do it all.  You may just say, “so what if all the clothes are the same color?”   
3.    FORGET HOME COOKED MEALS.  Unless you spent the winter canning, preserving and freezing, you are not going to have time to make dinner every night.  Lucky for you, all of your friends are now crew moms and you’re all in the same boat (pun intended).  Anyone who is posting pictures of their homemade food on facebook right now is either a football mom or a wrestling mom but they are definitely not a crew mom.
4.    PUT THE “FUN” BACK IN FUNDRAISING.  More and more sports are finding they have to “self fund” and crew is no exception.  In addition to morning practice before school and pickup from afterschool practice, not to mention the actual crew meets you will be driving to, cheering at and cooking for, many crew parents across the country simultaneously have to fundraise to keep the team going.  Car washes, bake sales, spaghetti dinners, it can be relentless.  Just treat yourself to a Latte, throw your hair in a ponytail and drag yourself over there, chances are you’ll have a better time than you would have ever imagined.
5.    GET OUT AND ROW!  My #1 piece of advice is to get into a Learn to Row class for adults and get out on the water in a crew shell.  It was not until I got out on the water and started rowing that I made the connection – why parents would ever put themselves through all the work and self-sacrifice for this sport.  The truth is rowing is one of the greatest Joys of my life.  I’m certainly no expert and I have no interest in the competitive side of the sport.  But Recreational Rowing is so physically, emotionally and spiritually gratifying, I really am at a loss for words to explain it.  After a particularly good row, when you stop your boat to look at your surroundings, in my case, the beautiful Hudson River and the Hudson Valley, you really will be left speechless.  It was my oldest who encouraged me to get out there and try it and I am so glad that I did.  I have been to indoor rowing all winter and I can’t wait for the warmer weather so we can get back on the water. 
           I love Recreational Rowing in the summer.  The craziness of sprint crew season is over.  I get in a boat with whoever is around, and Michael gets in his rec single and goes out too.  The joy of being out on the water and watching your child, age 10, scull past you is beyond words.  It is the reason I do what I do, and why I work so hard to bring this experience to the Student Ambassadors, who currently make up the bulk of the Newburgh Rowing Club during spring season.  I hope other parents will take advantage of the opportunity and get into recreational rowing too.  For all of the seasoned crew parents out there:  revv your engines, it’s go time.  And for all of the rookie crew parents out there:  hang on and get ready for the time of your lives!

Welcome to Spring Crew Season 2014, everyone, and have a great day!  <3 Mrs. Lo

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

LoBIONDO LAW OFFICES IS MOVING TO THE CITY OF NEWBURGH AND HIRING BILINGUAL STAFF

Newburgh, NY – Juliana LoBiondo, also known as “Mrs. Lo,” a partner in the law firm of LoBiondo Law Offices, has announced that the firm in which she and her husband, Anthony LoBiondo, are partners, is moving to the City of Newburgh.

            “We will be moving from our Town of Newburgh office to 275 North Street, in the City of Newburgh, effective April 1, 2014.  We will be in the “SmileWorks” building, owned by our good friend, Dr. Cary Wagner,” said Juliana LoBiondo, an Attorney, Mediator, and Director of the Family Law Resources Center.  “We have also just hired a Spanish-speaking receptionist / Office Administrator, who is not only bilingual but a Certified Translator.”
            “We have decided to make a full on commitment to the City of Newburgh and one of our fastest growing client bases, the Bilingual community,” said Anthony LoBiondo, Attorney and Director of the Personal Injury and Criminal Law Resource Center.  “The offices are also in the heart of the medical office community of Newburgh, which is convenient because I do so much personal injury work.  Yet we are close to the 84 exits for our client base coming from Dutchess County and other parts of Orange County.”
            Juliana and Anthony have each been attorneys for over 23 years, and Juliana has been a Mediator for 25 years.  They reside in Newburgh with their two sons.  The LoBiondo’s are both very active in the community.  Anthony is a member of the Board of Directors of the Newburgh Rowing Club and previously served on the Board of the Children’s Rights Society.  Juliana LoBiondo, also known as “Mrs. Lo,” is the Team Mom for the Newburgh Rowing Club and the Director of America Rows Newburgh, a scholarship based inclusion rowing program which is an official affiliate of USRowing.  Mrs. Lo was also the Team Mom for the Goldback Youth Football League D3 football team, and is also Team Mom for the Newburgh Panthers AAU 8th grade basketball team, and is on the Development Committee for the Boys and Girls Club of Newburgh.  Mrs. Lo was the head of the Fundraising Committee for the NFA Crew Team in 2012, when the team raised $60,000.00 in less than a year to continue as a community-funded varsity team.  Mrs. Lo is also a member of the Advisory Committee of the Salvation Army Corps of Newburgh.  She has previously served on the Executive Board of the Dutchess County Bar Association, where she retired as President-Elect; served on the Grievance Committee of the Dutchess County Bar Association for 10 years; is a former president of the Mid-Hudson Women’s Bar Association;  and served on the Dutchess County Economic Development Committee and the Dutchess County Mental Health Association’s Board of Directors.  Mrs. Lo is one of the few attorneys in the area qualified by the U.S. State Department to handle Hague Convention cases and has been honored at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Arlington, VA for her pro bono work in helping to represent victims of international child kidnapping.  This year, Mrs. Lo was selected to receive a 2014 “Thumbs Up Award” from Kidz4Causes, for her commitment to the community.

            For more information, you can reach LoBiondo Law Offices at 275 North Street, Newburgh, NY  12550, (845) 569-7600 or visit their website at www.LoBiondoLaw.com

Saturday, March 15, 2014

THAT TIME THAT MRS. LO SMELLED LIKE GARBAGE – LITERALLY.

 We recently held a very successful Graduation ceremony for the Student Ambassadors at Don Fernando’s, with Congressman Maloney and Assemblyman Skartados giving out Certificates of Merit to the children.  And, as a special surprise, the Congressman gave Coach Kennedy a Congressional Proclamation, thanking him for his decades of service to the youth of the Newburgh school district and the Sport of Rowing.  As Coach was giving his impromptu but very moving acceptance speech, I couldn’t help but think of the things that are really important to Coach Kennedy.  Those who have been around him long enough, especially his rowers, know what is in his Top 5.  Of course, his family, his rowers, and his students come first.  But a close second is – Garbage. 

            “What is the most important thing to me down here?”  Coach will ask the kids on any given night at the Boathouse.  Newbies will shout out things like:  “proper form!”, or “Medals” or “Winning’!  But I will exchange a look with an old timer like Coach Cunningham or longtime rower Cappy and we will have a silent laugh together.  Nope.  Try again.
            “Garbage!”  Coach Kennedy will answer.  You see, we don’t have a carting or sanitation service at the Newburgh Rowing Club, nor does the City remove the garbage, even though we are located at a City of Newburgh park.  The Newburgh Rowing Club puts out all of its own garbage cans, which are mostly used by rowers but also used by the general public.  The coaches, rowers, and parents all go around with big black garbage bags and remove all the garbage.  And guess where it goes?  In the back of Coach Kennedy’s pickup truck, so he can drive around with it and take it to the public dump early Saturday mornings.  Yes, he may have coached his team to a State Championship, he may have brought back Gold from the Empire State Games, and he may have received a Congressional Proclamation, but half the time what’s on Coach Kennedy’s mind is the “Garbage Situation,” as he calls it.  This is why the sport of rowing is so different from all other sports and the Newburgh Rowing Club is so different from all other rowing clubs.  We completely and 100% maintain our Boathouse, our park, and our equipment ourselves. 
            No one is immune from Garbage Duties, including Mrs. Lo.  If you are down there for practice, and it’s garbage time, you better have a big black trash bag and you better be picking up garbage.  So it was one very hot summer day in 2012, when I saw some of the kids picking up garbage after practice and I said, “Here give me that, you go get the boats in,” and I took the garbage bag to empty the metal cans.  As I made my way further from the docks, I couldn’t hear the kids yelling at me, “NOOOOOO, Mrs. Lo, don’t empty that one, never empty that one, that’s where the fishermen put their garbage!” 
Of course, as I merrily went about my way, I proceeded to get the garbage all over me.  One thing I discovered:  you really cannot smell your own stink.
            When I came over to watch the kids do their cheer, they all parted like the Red Sea, holding their noses, saying, “What the heck is that horrible smell?”  I looked around, I couldn’t place it.  “I think it’s you, Mrs. Lo,” said one of the rowers.  “You stink.”  And there it was.  All day long, I was a well respected lawyer, going to court, being all big timey and what not.  I meet people who are oafraid to look me in the eye, who are not able to pipe up and tell me what’s really on their mind.  But not the rowers.  They will not hesitate to tell you how it is.  I was a stinker.
            “Mrs. Lo, did you touch the Untouchable Garbage that only I am supposed to touch,” said Coach Kennedy.  I guess I did.
            The kids in the Crew Mom mobile were all too polite to say anything but they all put their windows down on the way home.  “Hey, guys, want to stop for ice cream on the way home?” As if on cue, they all said, “Nooooo, gotta get home, Mrs. Lo.”  They claimed they couldn’t wait to get home and start their homework.  It was a Friday.
            But if I ever want to know the real deal, all I have to do is ask my son, Michael, now age 10. 
            “Mommy, You Stink!” Michael said, after running to greet me at the door and then stopping about 3 feet away.  “What did you do?” 
            “She emptied the Untouchable Garbage,” said Christian, chuckling.  Apparently, there were fish guts that had been there for a week, in the summer sun, among other things.  The bag had broken so the garbage got all over me, including my hair.  No amount of showering could remove the smell. 
My husband fell asleep with a surgical mask over his face.  Christian used rubber gloves to throw my clothes in the laundry, and even when they come out he suggested we burn them.  And Michael lived with a Febreeze spray can next to him.  He sprayed the air every time I walked by.  And reminded me that I still stunk.
People talk about having humbling experiences.  Try walking around Newburgh smelling like garbage.  On the one hand, I had the whole line to myself at Price Chopper.  On the other hand, the kind-hearted checkout person asked me if I needed a place to sleep.  Yes, I smelled like a homeless person.
Eventually, the smell went away but I have always had a special understanding of Coach Kennedy’s obsession with the garbage.  They say (the Powers That Be) that if they have to move our Boathouse for the Port of Newburgh, we will get a bigger, better Boathouse.  Actually, we will get two.  I have no idea who’s paying for all of this, our Boathouse is worth a Million Dollars, if it had to be recreated.  When I went to the planning meeting, I was acting as Big Coach’s Emissary, since he couldn’t be there.  They asked if the NRC had any other conditions.  I didn’t have to make a phone call, I already knew what it would be.
“The Garbage,” I said.  “What about it?” the Powers That Be, asked.  “Someone is going to have to pay to have the garbage removed, Coach Kennedy has been the garbage man for 10 years now.”
When I reported back to Big Coach, he was duly impressed.  “I guess you really do know how I think, Mrs. Lo.”  I certainly do.  I learned the hard way.

Have a great day everyone and as always remember to Count Your Blessings!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

GOODBYE, SATIN: IF ONLY I COULD HAVE ONE MORE DAY

My grandmother always said Memories are a tricky thing.  They can wrap you up like a warm, velvety blanket or scratch your nerves raw.  And sometimes, your Memory will play tricks on you. 

            There I was at Christian’s Newburgh Panthers basketball practice at the Armory.  First, you have to understand that growing up, we all agreed that there was no one who could basketball the way that my childhood friend, “Satin,” played.  The coach always said if there was such a thing as basketball IQ, Satin would be considered a genius.  There was something innate about the way he touched the ball.  He had THE Touch.  That’s why they called him Satin. 
But that was a long time ago, right now, I was standing at the Newburgh Armory, with my jaw hanging open, watching a kid handle the ball in a way that reminded me so much of Satin.  Not the way he looked but the way he held the ball, controlled the ball, could go from Zero to explosive in no time.  With Satin, it was like you could blindfold him and he would make the same shot over and over.  And that’s when I thought I saw him.  Out of the corner of my eye.  Satin -- driving the ball down court.  But of course, it wasn’t him.  It was just my very vivid Imagination.  Satin died, officially, 3 years ago.  But we lost him long before that.
            Satin was our next door neighbor growing up in Fishkill.  His dad and Lolo both worked at IBM.  My brother Michael and Satin were best friends, from the time he moved in next door at about the age of 5 until, well, until he disappeared.  They were inseparable, those two.  Always walking to the basketball court at the elementary school across the street to shoot hoops.  Sometimes Lolo went with them or Satin’s Dad.  He was the most amiable, good natured kid, always with a smile on his face.  But as he grew into a young man, and really focused on basketball, it seemed he was insatiable in his quest for perfection.  He was relentless when it came to academics and sports.  Maybe we should have seen he was too driven.  Maybe we should have said, Perfection is not a realistic goal, that is a quest that will burn you out.
            My brother and Satin started to part ways a little bit in Middle school and High school.  My brother immediately went out for wrestling, and was on the JV team, then the Varsity team at John Jay from 7th grade to senior year, ending as Co-Captain of the Varsity wrestling team.  Satin was the Senior Class president, and played baseball, soccer, football and was the Captain of the Champion Varsity Basketball Team, and a bona fide basketball all star by the time they graduated.  He was the one they trusted to take the game-winning shot over and over again.  He was the one who made the magic happen on the court.  If he was out sick, we lost, if he was healthy, we most likely were going to win.
       He had made every basketball all star team possible, was selected for every honor known, and was inducted into the Dutchess County Basketball Hall of Fame.  He made the Poughkeepsie Journal all star team, the Conference A North All Sections all star team, and the Exceptional Seniors All Star basketball team. 
 After practice, he would stay in the gym and keep practicing, for hours on end, he would just never want to leave the court.
            I remember coming back from NYU for my brother’s graduation, in 1986, it was right before I was scheduled to go to NYU in Spain.  I remember looking at my brother and Roger, the two of them so impossibly perfect, in that way that only two graduating seniors with the world at their feet could be.  Scholar athletes, handsome, brilliant, talented, joking and laughing in the way only two best friends since kindergarten could do.  They were everything a parent could hope for in a son, it was the 80’s, with big hair, muscle cars, and Brat Pack movies.  Before there was Black Tuesday, before 9/11; our generation had grown up only knowing peace, we had never experienced wartime.  When people said the sky is the limit, it really was. 
  My brother was headed off to college at SUNY Purchase, and Satin would go on to Auburn University, where he would play basketball for 2 years.  For me, that was the last time I would see him alive.  But I didn’t know that then.  I spoke to Satin briefly, but I was itching to get on with my big journey to study in Spain.  I really regret that I didn’t spend more time with him.  Of course, had I known it would be the last time I would see him, I would have dropped everything and made as much time as possible for my childhood friend.  I would have told him to take it easy, not to put so much pressure on himself, because a pressure cooker that’s not relieved is going to implode.
            What happened after Auburn is sketchy.  After 2 years, Satin transferred to St. John’s University in Queens.  No one is totally clear why, Auburn had been a pretty good gig.  He played some basketball but not at the level he was capable of, because he had other things going on.  He was involved in some kinds of substances that were keeping him from thinking clearly.  And then, he just disappeared.  Literally.  Many people went to look for him.  He had been sighted somewhere in Florida but he wouldn’t come back to reach back or accept help. God knows, we all tried, especially his family.  He has two brothers.  I can’t imagine the pain his parents went through all those years.
            So they say it was, in a sense, a relief when they finally got the call.  Around the holidays in 2010.  Satin’s remains has been identified on a beach in Florida, through dental records.  There’s no need to speculate as to what happened, because it just won’t do any good or bring him back. 
            When we went to the Memorial service in January of 2011, it was brutal.  What a way to see your high school friends again.  He had been 42, but there were no current pictures of him.  So at the Memorial service, the church was covered in  pictures of him from high school:  childhood moments capured; his senior class picture, so handsome; his many basketball team pictures and newspaper clippings.  The light in his eyes was so bright.  His older brother, God Bless Him, was able to speak at the Memorial.  And what he said to everyone was, Roger’s bright burning star was the same thing that kept him from coming back and asking for help.  Had he been more of an ordinary guy, maybe he could have asked for help.  Asking for help, as his brother said, is the hardest thing that a person can do.  In a way, the same extreme willpower that allowed Satin to practice for hours in the pouring rain, is what must have allowed him to stop his hand, everytime he wanted to reach for the phone and ask for help.      
Oh, that would never be me, never be my kid, I hear some people saying.    Listen, Satin was my friend, and he could have been anybody’s kid.  There but for the grace of God go I.  And my children.  I take nothing for granted.  Nothing.
            As I shook myself back to the present, at Christian’s AAU basketball practice, I looked around at all the talented athletes.  They are the best that Newburgh has to offer and Newburgh is the basketball capital of the Hudson Valley.   Boy, Satin would have loved this place.
“MOM!” my son yells at me, cutting through decades of thoughts and foggy memories to bring me front and center “… what’s wrong, Mom?”
I know I have a vivid imagination.  It’s what drives me to write all the time. And for just a minute, I allow myself to imagine a young Satin, taking one last shot, flashing me the peace sign, his signature move, and walking off the court, dribbling slowly. 
“Nothing, my boy, everything is just right,” I say, and give him one last hug.  And it is.  Somehow, by coming here and seeing all these very much alive and well and healthy basketball players, I am at peace.  Maybe some part of him lives on in all of us, his friends, in the way we see the world, the way we raise our kids.  I know that I was in the presence of greatness.  I am sorry that Satin’s meteoric rise was so tragically cut down.  But I know I will never, ever forget him.  I know that I will always encourage my kids to do their best.  And most importantly, I know that if my kids ever come to me for help or forgiveness, I will be quick to extend it.  Whatever the reason may be.  And so I thank you Roger, for that, for all that you have given us, your friends.  You absolutely enriched our lives.  But as for any guilt or regret any of us are carrying around, it is time to let that go.  And remember the best in you, the best in all of us, and forgive you.  And it’s time to forgive ourselves.  Rest in peace, my brother <3 Julie


Saturday, March 1, 2014

WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN TO THE NEWBURGH ROWING CLUB IF THEY PUT A PORT IN YOUR BACKYARD?

  I cannot tell you how many phone calls, emails, texts, and fb messages I have received from friends, family and complete strangers, wanting to know:  “What’s the deal with the Port of Newburgh?  What’s going to happen to the Newburgh Rowing Club?”  I finally asked my brother from another mother, Coach Kennedy, to take the reigns off of me and let me give some kind of 411 out to my Readers.  He has agreed.  Here is the short answer:  Nothing.  As in, according to the Powers that Be, nothing will happen to the Newburgh Rowing Club, if the Port of Newburgh comes to pass.  Generations of rowers will continue to enjoy rowing in the City of Newburgh through the Newburgh Rowing Club for many years to come.

            But first, for the uninitiated, let me explain how the Newburgh Rowing Club came to be located where is currently sits, at the Ward Brothers Memorial Park, at the foot of Renwick Street, on the Hudson River.  Big Coach founded the NRC 25 years ago.  Ten years ago, the NRC was rowing out of Orange Lake, in the Town of Newburgh.  The City asked Big Coach to bring the rowing club into the City of Newburgh.  A few properties were discussed and he chose the present location, which was a great surprise to everyone.  Why?  It was essentially a garbage dump.  In the process of my grant writing, I had to go through the NRC archives.  I was astounded at what I found. 
            Dozens, if not hundreds, of volunteers, rowers, their families, and the coaches, spent years clearing the garbage out of that area.  Taylor Recycling donated dumpster after dumpster to haul away the debris.  Among the notable items taken away according to the archives were:  hundreds of tree trunks; a rusted motor boat; several rusted cars; engines; an apparent small aircraft propeller; “bodies” (presumably animals); countless pieces of furniture; and “a dozen porcelain toilets”.
            Once cleared, volunteers spent a good 8 years of their life building the present 6,000 square foot structure, which is still being improved upon as we speak.  The Boathouse, as it is affectionately known to rowers is Home to so many.  It is owned by no one and everyone.  The south wall was built by USMC Cpl. Joseph Tremblay and his Marine buddies, in the Fall of 2004, right before Joey went back to the Marines and was deployed to Iraq, during the “Surge.”  It was the last time Big Coach, who had coached Joey from age 11 – 17, ever saw him.  Joey was killed in Iraq in April of 2005.  The rowing club erected a flagpole in Joey’s memory which was dedicated to him by Father Bill and Senator Larkin, with a full US Marine Color Guard in 2012.  We have held an annual event at the Boathouse every year to honor his memory.
            Personally, I first came down to the Boathouse in 2010.  And I have never left.  That’s kind of what happens down there.  Until you have been out on the water yourself and actually rowed out of the Newburgh Rowing Boathouse, you will never understand what that place means to those who call it home.  And if Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth built, then the Newburgh Rowing Club Boathouse, which houses a fleet of over 40 crew shells, from singles to the mighty 60-foot long 8-mans, and a fleet of over 35 kayaks, is the House that Coach Kennedy and Leif Stepakoff built. 
            What I have done with the Student Ambassador program is really my wish and dream fulfilled.  And having his first rowers come back to rower with their children is Coach Kennedy’s dream fulfilled.  Here’s the thing you need to understand about Coach Kennedy, that is unlike any coach you are going to meet.  Although he is the senior coach in the Hudson Valley Rowing League, he couldn’t care less about medals.  He has already won everything there is to be won, from a NYS Championship to Gold at the Empire Games.  He cares about getting kids in the water.  Period.  It’s that simple.
            There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears all over that Boathouse, all over the docks and the crew shells.  They belong to many rowers and parents, some of whom are no longer with us here on Earth.  To me, to my kids, to my rowing kids whom I love so much.  Here’s the thing about rowers.  They just want to row.  It’s not like soccer or baseball, you show up, you suit up, you play.  So much goes in behind the scenes to making sure the boats go out, that the boats go on the trailer.  You have to de-rig so you can load them on the trailer, then when you arrive at your destination, you unload the boats, get out your tools and rig the boats again.  To leave your destination, you have to de-rig your boats and guess what, when you get back to the Boathouse, the next practice is spent rigging them again. 
            Here’s what I know for sure, or what we have been told by the Powers that Be: Spring Crew Season, the Summer Rowing Season, and Summer Rowing Camp will all go off right here at the Boathouse.  After that, we will continue to row here in the City of Newburgh.  And in the end, that’s all the rowers want.  They just want to row.  And we will.  For many generations to come.  And that is a beautiful thing.

            Have a great day, everyone, and as always, remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo