SPARC of Vienna Competes in Reston’s Cardboard Boat Regatta

SPARC of Vienna Competes in Reston’s Cardboard Boat Regatta

FVCbank donates to SPARC.

The SPARC Team and supporters gather to celebrate.

The SPARC Team and supporters gather to celebrate. Photo by Mercia Hobson.

   From left, Mary Burger, SPARC board member-at-large, Reston; Patricia Ferrick, president of FVCbank; Deborah Cabala, FVCbank and treasurer of SPARC; Debi Alexander, executive director of SPARC, Reston; and Ellen Dyke, chair of SPARC
 By Mercia Hobson 

Crew members of the 30 registered participating teams in the Reston Museum Cardboard Boat Regatta 2023 had a single purpose leading up to the Saturday, Aug. 19 event: design and build a 100 percent person-powered cardboard boat. What they had to do with their cardboard boat on race day would be far more challenging.

While seated in or on top of their boat, crew members would compete in timed heats against other teams, paddling their boats across Lake Anne to a designated buoy, circling it, and returning to the plaza docks. Those with the fastest time would place and be declared the winners. Adding to the fun, approximately 1,000 people would be watching from the quay, balconies, and dock and cheering participants.

The morning before the race, clients at the SPARC program for individuals with disabilities at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Vienna put the final touches on their boat for Team Mauri. This would be SPARC’s second year competing, and their theme for 2023 was Inclusion. SPARC stands for Specially Adapted Resource Clubs.

Andrea "Anee" Stanford took the lead on the technical design of the SPARC cardboard boat. "I easily watched over 100 videos on boat building, learning and researching," she said.

Last year's participation taught the team not to build the boat’s hull so high. It proved difficult to reach over and row, Stanford said. The propelling device could not be motorized or kick-powered, but oars or paddles might be made of any material or bought from a shop.

Christina Cole of McLean said she applied some tape to help waterproof the team’s boat. It is a critical component in lessening the possibility of the boat taking on water and capsizing.

Excitement pulsed at the pre-launch party. The boat's theme became a single word, inclusion, painted on one side of the hull. A zephyr depicted inclusion. Its red-pink head rose amidst ashes from the deck floor, stronger and more inspirational than before. Like the people of Mauri devastated by wildfires will rise stronger, so too the clients at SPARC who advocate for inclusion will also rise stronger.

Representatives of FVCbank took a moment amidst the buzz to present a donation check of $3,500 to SPARC. The funds will help support the nonprofit’s essential day programs at five locations in Northern Virginia for adults with disabilities.

Community supporters, staff, and others joined Team Mauri's final boat build efforts, including Ellen Dyke, chair of SPARC; Patricia A. Ferrick, president of FVCbank; Deborah Cabala, vice president of FVCbank; Debi Alexander, executive director of SPARC, Reston; and Mary Burger, SPARC board director, Reston, to name a few.

With everyone gathered in the main auditorium, each took a turn signing their names on the SPARC vessel, a personally penned christening to bring it good fortune on its maiden and sole voyage the next day.

Team Mauri successfully launched their boat and completed the course during the Cardboard Boat Regatta without capsizing. Riley Carlson said they plan to compete in next year’s race and take their next boat to an even higher level. 

Started nearly 20 years ago, SPARC hosts five clubhouse locations that operate five days a week at various buildings in Fairfax and Arlington. The staff-led programming is based on a curriculum rooted in therapeutic recreation principles that consist of continued education or leisure learning, skill building, exercise, excursions, cooking, music, art, lectures, discussion groups, and more.
All revenues from the Cardboard Boat Regatta go to the Reston Museum, a 501(c)3 non-profit devoted to preserving history, enlightening the present, and shaping the future of Reston via educational programs, archives, and exhibits.