Inclusive rowing helps change the lives of people with disabilities

ROCHESTER, N.Y (rWHEC) — When you’re going through a difficult time or dealing with a debilitating illness or disability, the last thing you might think about is getting into the water to try your hand at rowing. But, a local non-profit is getting people to do just that and in many cases, it’s helping them cope with challenges and changing their lives.

Rochester Community Inclusive Rowing gets people in the water who might not have even realized rowing is an option. "We serve veterans, veterans families, veterans with mental health challenges, physical challenges, people on the autism spectrum, CP, MS, cancer battlers, cancer survivors…were all about inclusion,” explains co-founder Tim Giarrusso.

Sarah Frazier-Kim is a disabled Marine, a wife and a mother. She lost her right leg and likes to row as often as she can. "The first time I got on the water, I was hooked it’s this tranquility and peace,” she tells News10NBC. “You have to just concentrate on that so, all these things going on in my head, all these issues, all my pains everything just goes to the back of your head because you literally have to focus on what you’re doing.”

“It’s not what happened last night, not what’s going to happen tomorrow but just right here right now,” explains co-founder Dennis Fronheiser. Rowers are often part of a team, relying on each other in the water. "They stopped worrying about what they can’t do and take pride in what they can do,” he adds.

For Frazier-Kim, it’s time away from questions about her disability. "There’s just a quiet acceptance of everything, I don’t want to say there is no judgment but everyone doesn’t just stop and stare at you,” she says. They don’t ask about her amputation, how it happened, whether she needs help. "Sometimes I’m having a really bad day, or I’ve had a bad week and you just look forward to coming here because you look forward to the relaxation, the peace and they always give you such good advice,” she says.

Some of the other people who row with Frazier-Kim have mental health issues, have been through trauma or are grieving the loss of a loved one. Everyone has a story but they’re trying not to let it define them. "You bring your own set of issues and you find out that in the rest of the world, everybody else is struggling too,” says Fronheiser.

And in the end, it almost always helps them move forward. “I don’t even think they realize what they bring, or how much they’re really helping people,” says Frazier-Kim.

No one pays to row, no one gets paid for helping. For more information, click here.

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