By Michele Woolbert, CARP Volunteer Coordinator
Six years ago, I moved to the Washington, DC, area with no intention of joining a rowing team. But as most rowers can attest to, even after your worst practice, seeing water that looks like glass just calls you back to the sport. It was after months of day-dreaming about being back on the water that I started doing some research on what teams were around the area. I don’t quite remember how I landed on Capital’s website but something struck my eye: the adaptive rowing program. I had vaguely remembered seeing some adaptive events at races I had been to in the past but hadn’t paid them much attention and I really didn’t know much about the sport but I thought “why not?”
Six years later, it turns out that signing up to volunteer for the Capital Adaptive Rowing Program (CARP) was the best decision I’ve made since moving to the DC area. Not only have I been able to get back into a sport that I love, but I have learned a new side of it, a side that I’ve found so much more inspirational and educational.
While the coaching staff and athlete roster has changed many times, there has been one constant, the attitude of the team. Each athlete has their own story, their own motivation, and their own overwhelmingly strong determination to succeed. Working side-by-side with rowers and coaches to figure out how to get each athlete on the water and competing (if they wish) has challenged me to think about alternative solutions to the everyday issues all rowers face. I’ve been given the opportunity to learn how to think inclusively on a very practical level and see where I might be able to make improvements to benefit others. This thought process doesn’t only apply at the boathouse, either. It has made me more comfortable knowing when to jump in and offer assistance to others in my daily life, all while recognizing that “disabled” doesn’t necessarily mean unable. The day I started volunteering with the team, I remember being very unsure of what I was getting into, but feeling like I might be able to help some people. Little did I know that CARP would introduce me to some of my closest friends, allow me to meet actual heroes, and teach me some big life lessons on how I can make the world just a little better.
I’m honored to say that I was asked by the team three years ago if I’d be the Volunteer Coordinator. I gladly took on the challenge and appreciate every day that I am able to help out the team that has given me so much more than I could have imagined. It’s re-inspired my love of the sport and is a constant reminder of what can be accomplished if only you maintain the right mind-set. My sincerest thank you goes out to the CARP athletes and coaches for allowing me to be a part of this team. Congratulations and CARPe Diem!!