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Yorktown Crew Rows for Charity

High school’s crew team and Habitat for Humanity chapter partner to raise money for both organizations.

In the middle of Ballston Common Mall last Saturday, in front of dozens of Arlington residents out shopping or going to see a movie, Heather Young rowed nearly 7,000 meters. In her socks.

Young was one of more than 80 members of the Yorktown High School crew team who devoted their entire Saturday to raising money for both a charitable cause and to help the club team defray the costs of its upcoming season

For the second year in a row, the Yorktown crew team partnered with the school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter to raise awareness and money for both organizations.

“I came out of it with a real sense of accomplishment,” said Young, a Yorktown senior. “It’s such a wonderful cause, and a pretty good workout.”

The event, dubbed “Row for Humanity,” is one of the main fund-raising vehicles for both Yorktown student groups. Members of the crew team and the Habitat for Humanity chapter canvassed neighborhoods seeking donations, sent notices to friends and family and spent the day greeting shoppers at the mall.

All of the money the Habitat for Humanity chapter raises goes straight to the organization’s Northern Virginia branch, which builds homes for low-income families across the region. The Habitat club members had already received more than $600 in pledges before the “Row for Humanity” event.

The crew team is donating 10 percent of its proceeds to Habitat for Humanity, with the rest paying for their nine rowing shells, oars and indoor rowing machines, called ergometers.

Since crew is not a varsity sport at Yorktown, the school only provides funding for transportation, regatta fees and coaches’ salaries. The rest of the expenses, including the $30,000 8-person boats, have to be covered through fund-raising and parent donations.

Though the crew team holds car washes during the summer and sells wreaths during the holiday season, “Row for Humanity” has turned into their biggest fund-raiser.

“Just as important is that this benefits an organization that helps our community,” said Craig Spraggins, who has coached the Yorktown crew team for the past seven years. “Lots of people have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina and need help building a house in the area. “

TWENTY-FIVE STUDENTS are active in the school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, which is now in its eighth year, and they participate in the organization’s building projects in Arlington.

“This gives the students a real sense of contribution,” said Mike Zito, a Yorktown science teacher who serves as they club’s sponsor. “They are doing something that makes a huge difference in someone’s life, and they are actually working with the people they are helping.”

Last year the club raised nearly $1,700 through the “Row for Humanity” event and subsequent solicitation notices. While Habitat for Humanity is not currently working on any projects in Arlington, Yorktown students will be helping the organization renovate the Perry Hall apartment building later in the year, said Habitat for Humanity’s Steve Green.

At the Ballston mall, members of the crew team rowed for half-an-hour shifts on the ergometers, from 9:30 a.m. until the mall closed at 9 p.m.

Young said she was pleasantly surprised by the generosity of shoppers in the mall, some of whom said they had rowed in high school or college.

“It was really awesome for people who raced 25 years ago to come here and give us money,” she said.

Other members of the team said they were pleased by the large turnout of Yorktown students, teachers and parents to the day-long fund-raiser.

“I’m happy to see a lot of Yorktown students helping us out,” said Greg Schleifman, a senior on the crew team. “You wouldn’t think that crew is the most popular sport at school, but everyone is coming out to lend their support.”