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Friday, January 9, 2015

If You Can Dream It ... the Story of America Rows and Swims Newburgh

IF YOU CAN DREAM IT … last week, America Rows and Swims Newburgh received a $10,000.00 grant from the Hudson River Improvement Fund (“HRIF”), officially funding the not-for-profit that Coach Kennedy and I built from the ground up.  Literally.  Many of my readers, family, and friends have been praying, along with me, that the grant would come through so that this fabulous program could continue, so I decided to “break the news” in my Blog. 

            America Rows and Swims Newburgh (“ARSN”) has come a long way, in a short time.  We started with 5 Student Ambassadors, at the Newburgh Rowing Club boathouse, a little over 4 years ago.  The idea was simple, to offer scholarship-based rowing opportunities to underserved youth in the City of Newburgh.  We soon discovered that the main barrier to our program was the inability to “pass the swim test.”  Our rowing coaches, also former swim coaches, started a volunteer run program to instill water confidence.  I began applying for grants, successfully.
            Since then, we have taught hundreds of kids to survival swim, for free.  Then kept them swimming and teaching others.  We have taught over a hundred kids, on scholarship, to kayak, canoe, and row.  Our strongest and most committed athletes have gone on to get private high school scholarships, and to row in local and regional regattas.  And, of course, the “Three Amigos” (my son, Christian, who attends Don Bosco Prep; Soup, who attends The Harvey School; and Kelvin, who attends Our Lady of Lourdes) have become a permanent fixture in the LoBiondo household. 
            The Three Amigos, and now the “Nora Cronin Girls” who are closer to Little Michael’s age, are my inspiration.  These kids are why I do what I do.  They are why I have raised over $75,000.00 in Grant and Fundraised money for this program; they are why I write the press releases every week;  hold regular parent meetings at my house in Spanish and English; fundraise relentlessly; go to the Pool til 9 pm every Tuesday night; put my own money, time and resources into starting and capitalizing the not-for-profit organization America Rows and Swims Newburgh; why I traveled on my own dime to Jacksonville, Florida to attend the USRowing national convention and soak up and speak on the topic of diversity in rowing.  Quite simply, along with my own husband and kids, my extended family, and my law office staff, these “rowing kids” are my everything. 
            ARSN is putting Newburgh on the map, and for a good reason.  We are an official affiliate of America Rows and USRowing, the governing body of the sport of rowing in America.  And we received “Local partner” status in the Make a Splash Program of the USA Swimming Foundation, which believes that every child in America should know how to swim, and that formal swim lessons are the key to making that happen.  This means we are official affiliates of two NGO’s (national governing bodies) of Olympic sports, rowing and swimming.  Our access to resources has been phenomenal.  As I said when I was humbly sitting on a panel about diversity at the USRowing convention in Jacksonville --  for years, I thought Coach and I were all alone, and then we learned we were part of a much larger network and we have the support and love of the governing body of our sport, how awesome is that.
            So what’s next, you might say?  We will continue on with our programs, teaching kids in the community water confidence and giving free swim clinics at the Union Avenue Y every Tuesday from 8:15 pm – 9 pm.  We are reviving the former “Hudson Valley Blue Fish” swim team founded by Coach Kennedy and applying to become an official USA Swimming team.  We are taking our Student Ambassadors to the America Rows Regatta in Baltimore, Maryland again this spring.  And we now have funding to add on a boatbuilding program, and to send some of our Student Ambassadors to the Newburgh Rowing Club summer camp.  We were able to pay for Davonte to take the lifeguarding class, which he passed with flying colors, and we will be sending our longtime Student ambassadors to the lifeguarding class and Refereeing classes, and helping them get summer jobs.
            And, while I was hosting the Winter Wonderland fundraiser at Ice Time, I met someone running a fabulous program for blind and limited vision hockey players.  It so happens that while at the USRowing Convenion in Jacksonville, FL, I sat next to a blind rower.  So, coming soon, to the America Rows and Swims Newburgh facility, we may just be introducing a new chapter, and adding Adaptive Rowing to our services. 
            Aren’t you losing business because you’re so busy?  It’s a funny thing, the more you follow your passion in life, the more things fall together.  My law and mediation practice has never been more successful or more fun.  I love being partners with my husband and we love our staff.  We are planning a winter field trip to see a Broadway play with our staff, and some team building Friday kayaking trips over the summer.  Because the more fun your “team” has, the more productive your business will be, that’s Leadership 101.  I keep a little plaque on my office desk and on my home office desk, they both have the same quote from Walt Disney:  “If you can dream it, you can do it.”   I absolutely can’t wait to see what dreams will be fulfilled in 2015!

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