Sculling on the Schuylkill
Though strong storms had rocked the Philadelphia area just the night before, it came as no surprise that the skies cleared and the sun shone brightly on the morning of the Bayada Regatta, the nation's largest and oldest adaptive rowing competition, held each August in the famed Boathouse Row area of the city.
After all, one of the volunteers there (a Bayada Nurses administrator) told me that in 30 years holding the event, it's never rained once. She said that if I knew anyone planning a wedding, have them schedule it on the same day as the regatta. She quipped that the "big guy" (Bayada Nurses founder Mark Baiada, who at age 62 still shows up to work the event) must have some serious pull with the Man Upstairs.
Granted, the previous day's storms did have an effect -- the river was swollen and swift, and the grounds surrounding the St. Joseph's University Boathouse were washed out and scattered with sticks and debris. The day-long sequence of events was delayed by an hour or so as volunteers cleaned up and prepped the spectator area.
Founded in 1975 and headquartered in Moorestown, NJ, Bayada Nurses provides nursing, rehabilitative, therapeutic, hospice, and personal home health care services to children, adults, and seniors in their homes. Bayada Nurses employs more than 14,000 nurses, home health aides, therapists, and social workers covering 20 states.
The Bayada Regatta is an officially sanctioned event by the United States Rowing Association. Rules are strict and competitors take them seriously. Rowers are classified by disability and all are welcome, from amputees to those with visual deficits, neurologic conditions or cognitive challenges. Paramedics and river-bound safety vessels were on hand, volunteers helped rowers in and out of their boats, and post-race massages were provided. A local catering company served lunch and dinner, and a DJ kept the atmosphere lively as medals were handed out.
While Philadelphia Adaptive Rowing (formerly known as the Philadelphia Rowing Program for the Disabled) is stationed just across the river, making it the de facto "host club" for the event, special-needs rowers from around the country travel each year to test their mettle at the regatta.
(For those interested, ADVANCE staffer Brian Ferrie profiled the Philadelphia Rowing Program for the Disabled and the PTs who work with them here.)
Rowing is hard work. Though the competitors were in good condition and had been training the whole season, many were visibly spent as they crossed the finish line.
As for my good friend Marc, competing in the Arms and Shoulders Only, Solo Men's Division, he finished respectably for his first-ever competitive rowing race. He finished a solid third out of 6 contestants. He has his work cut out for him; the winner -- Robbie Blevins of Louisville (KY) Adaptive Rowing -- paced the rest of the field by a full minute and 18 seconds in the 1000-meter race.
But hey, that's what "next year" is all about.