Community Support Helps Nisky Rowing Get Back On The Water After Storm Damages Boats; Fundraising Continues To Replace Damaged Boats

Niskayuna Rowing



Community Support Helps Nisky Rowing Get Back On The Water After Storm Damages Boats


Niskayuna Community, Other Teams Come To Team's Aid; Fundraising Continues To Replace Damaged Boats


The thirty-five middle school students that comprise Niskayuna Rowing's Modified team took to the water for the first practice of the fall season on this week thanks to the generosity of several organizations that loaned the team equipment after a severe storm swept through Aqueduct Park on July 27 toppling a tree that destroyed seven boats used by Niskayuna Rowing's middle school rowers.

After the storm brought down a tree onto the boat rack that held the modified rowers' fleet, the team's leadership was understandably concerned. The brief storm had damaged up to $100,000 worth of equipment and the team knew, that because the many of the boats were older, insurance would only cover a portion of the cost. Program Director Stacey Apfelbaum also had to figure out how to get the organization's Summer Learn-to-Row program and fall competitive rowing program back on the water quickly.

Apfelbaum and the Friends of Niskayuna Rowing Board of Directors sprang into action to put into place a short-term plan to ensure the programs could continue without interruption and formulated a long-term plan to start raising money to bridge the gap between the anticipated insurance payment and the sizable cost of replacing the boats.

The team set up a GoFundMe campaign and started spreading the word about what had happened. Media coverage from area newspapers and TV helped to get the news out locally and Apfelbaum, who has been involved with rowing for 40 years, both as a rower and a coach, spread the word through nation-wide rowing organizations and tapped into her vast network to spread the word in the rowing community.

"The response and compassion from the Niskayuna Community and beyond has been amazing," said Friends of Niskayuna Board President Chris Liguori. "Donations started coming in right away through the GoFundMe campaign along with words of support and encouragement. We have received assistance from current rowing families, former rowers and their families and people who have no connection to our program other than being part of the Niskayuna community, but want to help out. It has been truly humbling and we cannot thank everyone enough for their support. We hope to use this as a teaching experience for our students on how important it is to give back to others in need."

Apfelbaum noted that the club also immediately received calls from other rowing teams throughout the region offering the use of equipment to get the Nisky Rowing back on the water through the fall season.  

"The rowing community is an amazing group," said Apfelbaum. "The word went out and Saratoga, Burnt Hills, Shenendehowa, Albany, and others - all teams we compete against regularly - immediately reached out to see how they could help. We also received calls from several college teams and the vendors we buy our boats from.  Everyone wanted to make sure these kids had the opportunity to get back on the water and do what they love.  The response has been overwhelming."

The team was able to put together a fleet of five borrowed boats to get their middle schoolers, or "Mods" as they are affectionately referred to, on the water in time for the first scheduled practice. The borrowed boats include two from Saratoga Rowing and two from Vespoli Rowing, a manufacturer of rowing shells that Niskayuna Rowing has bought boats from in the past.

“Despite being competitors, we have always had a good relationship with Saratoga Rowing and the other clubs in the area,” said Apfelbaum.  “I think Saratoga wanted to help because they recognize that strong competition makes us all better and it would have been a disservice to our rowers and to theirs if our mods couldn’t compete because of this incident.”

Boatbuilder Vespoli USA also responded right away with an offer to loan boats to get the team up and running again.

"The rowing community always looks after each other in times of need. It's just one aspect of why crew rises above all sports.  We are glad to help Nisky get back on their feet," said Charles Huthmaker, Northeast Rep for Vespoli USA.  

"Words cannot express how thankful we are for the support we have received so far," said Liguori. "The middle school team is the future of our organization. Our high school program is highly successful and have won championships at the state and national level, but most of them got their start with us in middle school. We needed the community's support to make sure the current middle school athletes have the same opportunity to succeed as our high school athletes."

Liguori went on to note that while the team's fundraising effort is off to a good start, the team still short of its goal of $65,000 on its GoFundMe campaign. Those wishing to support the team's effort can find them on GoFundMe or find the link to the campaign on their website at



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