Community pitches in to help Mount Vernon crew team replace damaged boats

Damaged boats

The Mount Vernon crew team’s damaged boats are seen after the March 2 wind storm. (Courtesy of Larry Zaragoza)

Thanks to the generosity of the rowing community and many individual donations, the Mount Vernon High School crew team soon will be able to replace two of its four boats that were severely damaged by fallen trees during the wind storm on March 2.

Between a GoFundMe campaign and monetary donations made directly to the Mount Vernon Crew Boosters, the rowing team managed to raise close to the $15,000 necessary to cover the gap between its insurance coverage and the cost of acquiring new [used] racing shells.

According to Larry Zaragoza, president of the Mount Vernon Crew Boosters, the organization received donations from parents and/or booster clubs representing 18 other crew teams in the D.C. metro area, as well as from James River (Richmond, Va.) and Buffalo, N.Y. The Gonzaga High School Crew Team held a bake sale and donated all proceeds to Mount Vernon Crew Boosters. The Mount Vernon Yacht Club, the Virginia Scholastic Rowing Association, Team Concepts Projects Inc. and numerous individuals also contributed to the cause.

Zaragoza said these acts of kindness rendered many Mount Vernon Crew members speechless.

“While the boats will be missed, this event has helped bring us closer to other rowing crews and the community,” he said.

To compete this season, the Mount Vernon Crew Boosters will purchase one boat now and another in the near future. Last weekend, the rowing team managed to participate with just two boats in the annual Polar Bear Regatta at Sandy Run Park in Occoquan.

This was the not the first time that the Mount Vernon team’s fleet — which is stored at Fort Belvoir Marina — was damaged by Mother Nature. In February 2010, several trees fell during a winter storm, damaging six boats and other equipment.

Zaragoza said the Mount Vernon Crew Boosters would like to prevent weather-related mishaps from occurring again.

“Going forward we would like to raise money to build a boathouse so that our boats will be better protected,” he said. Currently, the boats are stored on open racks during race season and in a warehouse during the off-season, he added.

The Mount Vernon crew team — composed of 50 team members, about half of whom are military dependents — does not receive financial support from the high school or Fairfax County, relying instead on rower fees and fundraisers. The booster club is a 501(c)3 non-profit charity. Donation options are available on the team’s website.