Women's Rowing Dedicates Races to Cancer-Stricken Boy
CHERRY HILL, NJ -- Competing at the Knecht Cup in Cherry Hill, NJ, is an annual event for the Washington College women's rowing team, but this year's races at the regatta, held April 14th and 15th, had extra meaning for the Shorewomen.
The Shorewomen, who finished second in both the Division III varsity eight and the Division III varsity four, dedicated their races to Jason Gartskiewicz, a 13-year old New Jersey boy who lost part of a leg to cancer and continues to fight the disease.
Gartskiewicz was diagnosed with a sarcoma in his tibia last December. The best surgical option that would allow him to lead an active life was a below-the-knee amputation.
Jason met with the team and coaches prior to the races. Washington's student-athletes and coaches all purchased bright yellow shoelaces from Go4theGoal Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated providing supportive services to children with cancer and their families, and wore them during the regatta in support of Jason and cancer research.
"This meant a lot to our team. Everyone understands the value of support and we were all more than happy to contribute to the cause," noted senior coxswain and team tri-captain Kelsie Jensen (Mays Landing, NJ/Oakcrest). It was a team effort and I know Jason's family appreciated it immensely."
Jason's family sent an e-mail message thanking the team for their support. "Jason has shown amazing strength and courage through the chemotherapy treatments, surgery and learning to walk again. Jason was truly touched with the support the girls crew team showed, he loved the t-shirt. It was a pleasure to meet you all. Thank you for wearing the laces to support Jason and to bring awareness to pediatric cancer."
The connection to Jason and his family was made through Lauren Halla (Haddonfield, NJ/Haddonfield Memorial), a junior on the team, who used to babysit Jason when he was a youngster. Halla told head coach Dr. Mike Davenport about Jason and the team decided to reach out to him.
"During the race, I made a move for Jason and I felt to boat surge," said Jensen. "We may take some things for granted, but after hearing about how strong Jason is and everything he is going through, we put it into perspective and knew we wanted to try to win for him."