Oct. 31, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – During the month of October, it is not uncommon for pink to dominate color palettes. As Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October provides an opportunity for communities to come together in support of those who are currently battling breast cancer and those who have battled the disease in the past. The Ohio State University women’s rowing team is just one of many groups that shows unwavering support through actively supporting and fundraising for cancer research.

October is not the only time of the year that the Buckeyes show support for the cause, however. Throughout the year, the team participates in activities and events such as Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Recovery on Water and Row for a Cure.

Particularly close to the heart of the rowing team is the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. Former coxswain Erica Benford introduced her teammates to the American Cancer Society sponsored run/walk during her first year on the team in 2008. The event was very important for Benford, whose mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer just before she left to attend Ohio State.

Since the event was first held 20 years ago, over 460 million dollars have been raised and breast cancer rates have declined more than 30 percent. A small part of this can be attributed to Benford and her teammates, who raised over ten thousand dollars for the organization throughout her four years at Ohio State. In fact, Benford and teammate Claire Louise Bode received honors from the American Cancer Society for their overwhelming fundraising efforts.

“I won the Pacesetter award in Columbus for being the top individual fundraiser,” Benford said. “I don’t remember exactly how much I raised, but I know that it went to a great cause and it was a lot of fun to do.”

The team has participated in other fundraising and awareness events as well. This past racing season, the Buckeyes competed with crews from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana in a Row for a Cure regatta. The regatta, held by schools throughout the country at numerous levels, is run by US Rowing in support of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. For every regatta held, 75 percent of the donations raised are used locally to educate and provide information on early detection, to fund mammograms and to assist in patient care.

“The event was a nice display of support for breast cancer awareness by the Big Ten rowing teams that competed that weekend at Indiana,” sophomore coxswain Tori Lazur said. “Some schools were rowing with pink blades, while we chose to show our support by wearing pink Row for a Cure shirts. The shirts were a subtle statement for a great cause; I would like to believe the way we rowed our races that weekend spoke volumes.” 

Individual rowers on the team also go the extra kilometer for the cause. During the offseason, sophomore rower Ellie Zwick, a native of Chicago, Ill., spends her time volunteering with Jenn Gibbons, rowing coach and founder of Recovery on Water or ROW. ROW is a unique exercise environment for survivors to fight breast cancer and heal through exercise. The women who participate range from ages 29 to 65 and since the organization started in 2007, have become fierce believers in what rowing can do for their bodies.

“Besides coaching and coxing, I also help the women prepare to go out on the water by bringing down boats and blades,” said Zwick. “These women, who cannot lift the boat, who have been through chemotherapy and surgeries, who have families and other things they need to worry about, drive all the way to the southern branch of the Chicago River to get in a boat and learn to row.

“Those facts alone are astounding. ROW has quickly turned into more than an exercise group.  I think because rowing is such a team sport, it really makes everyone involved in ROW into a little family. I am so proud to be involved because the women are so incredibly inspirational and it is an amazing cause!”

This past weekend, the Buckeyes took part in the annual Making Strides against Breast Cancer event, just as they do every year.

For more information on any of the charities mentioned, or to donate, please click on the following links:

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Row For The Cure

Recovery on Water