Crewsers raise funds for cancer

Finishing 2nd at regatta takes back seat to important cause

Posted: Monday, October 15, 2007

Normally, when the Kenai Crewsers Rowing Club goes to an outside regatta, the focus is on racing.

Racing took a back seat at Portland's 14th annual Row for the Cure regatta on Sept. 23. The Crewsers brought home a silver medal in the women's master's eight at the Row for the Cure. More importantly, according to coach Terri Orr, the Crewsers finished third out of 26 organizations in fundraising for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The regatta raised a record $48,000, including the $4,141 raised by the Crewsers.

"Fundraising was the most important thing for us," Orr said. "We're thrilled to place well, but, more importantly, we were thrilled to have been an instrumental part in fundraising for the event."

The regatta benefits the Oregon and southwest Washington affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Three-quarters of the money stays in the community for education and treatment of breast cancer. The remaining 25 percent goes to national research projects.

Orr said members of the club have been personally touched by breast cancer over the last couple of years.

"It was a meaningful reason for us to be asking for funds, even though it was a small number of us that went to the event," Orr said. "Everyone felt personally touched, and that's why it was easy to ask."

Three rowing organizations from Alaska went to the Row for the Cure the Crewsers, Midnight Sun Rowing Association and the Anchorage Rowing Association. Both the Crewsers and Midnight Sun are based on the peninsula.

The Crewsers were founded in 1997 and started with rowing sites in Soldotna, Cooper Landing and Seward. In 2004, the vast geographic separation caused an amicable split, with the Seward side keeping the Crewsers name and the Soldotna side becoming the Midnight Sun club.

Anchorage, the Crewsers and Midnight Sun all decided to do the Row for the Cure without knowing other organizations in Alaska would be doing the same thing.

Those taking the silver medal from the Crewsers were Lori Swann, Rhonnie Berklund, Orr, Tara Jones, Lori Landstrom, Wendy Bryden, Nancy Anderson and Tanya Sandefur. The coxswain was Natasha Graham of the Anchorage Association.

"It all came together on the right time at the right day," Orr said. "We put it all in the water and it worked."

Also in the women's master's eight, Midnight Sun finished fifth and Anchorage finished ninth. Members of the Midnight Sun team were Christine Mitchell, Margot Bias, Brenda Stoops, Judy Demers, Margie McCord, Donna Osborn, Mary Ann Dyke, Terri Zopf-Schoessler and coxswain Donna Rea. Rea said each rower from Midnight Sun donated money to the Row for the Cure and said McCord is a breast cancer survivor.

"Every team tries to do something different, and because we were from Alaska, we decided to ask our friends who were cancer survivors, then we wrote their names in duct tape and stuck them on our backs," Zopf-Schoessler said. "People laughed and thought that was funny."

Zopf-Schoessler gave a ton of credit to the Crewsers, both for their fundraising and their race.

"They trained hard and they rowed an incredible race," Zopf-Schoessler said. "They were almost untouchable. They looked incredible."

Also, an Alaska composite team finished fourth out of seven in the men's master's four with coxswain. That team was made up of Harold Faust and Tom Swann of the Crewsers, Tiger Demers of Midnight Sun and Ken Rice of Anchorage. The coxswain was Claire Brown, who is from a junior club in Portland.

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