Port Washington’s Row for Autism draws thousands

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Crew teams rowing down Hempstead Harbor on Sunday at the eighth annual Row for Autism. (Photo courtesy of Danny Weiss Photography)

Once the fog lifted, the water rippled as 21 crew teams competed in the 8th annual Row for Autism at North Hempstead Beach Park on Sunday.

Some 200 athletes participated in the race, which drew about 2,000 spectators, making it the largest event since its inception, according to Holly Byrne, the executive director of Friends of Port Rowing, which is the funding arm for Port Rowing teams.

The event was conceived eight years ago to highlight Port Rowing’s inclusion team, consisting of four children who are on the autism spectrum and mentors from the varsity rowing team.

Byrne said there aren’t as many opportunities for inclusion teams to race and the event was planned to give the inclusion team a chance to compete and showcase its abilities.

Port Rowing has the only inclusion team on Long Island, she said, but there are other teams in Queens, Boston and Philadelphia, among others.

Crew teams came from Westchester, New Jersey and all over Long Island to row down Hempstead Harbor in one of the 31 events at Sunday’s regatta.

Throughout the day, there were events for middle schoolers to adults and for a range of skill levels.

Two Schreiber High School students from the radio club were the announcers and provided  commentary for all of the day’s races.  

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth, Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, Councilman Peter Zuckerman and Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey helped hand out medals to the winners.

Byne said Port Rowing has a strong partnership with the Town of North Hempstead. The group’s home base at the Town Dock is town property. The town also co-sponsors the event.

She said that town officials secured the dock that the rowing teams use, which has prolonged the rowing season because the rowers are able to enter the boats from the dock and not get in the cold water.

Proceeds from the Row for Autism will be used to grow Port Rowing’s inclusion programming.

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