Let Freedom Ring: USRowing gives veterans a chance to get on the water with Freedom Rows


We are happy to continue our partnership with USRowing with a recent donation to FREEDOM ROWS , a program designed to change the lives of injured veterans and members of the armed services through rowing.

Freedom Rows began in November 2014 with a grant from the Veterans Administration (VA) and has been met with tremendous success to date. Since its inception, USRowing has partnered with seven VA medical therapy programs and has effectively changed the lives of more than 200 of our country’s heroes through the power of rowing.

“Studies have shown that the repetitive nature of the action of rowing decreases the symptoms of PTSD,”
says Debbie Arenberg, Adaptive Programs Development Specialist at US Rowing.

“We have a couple of veterans who have actually gotten off their PTSD medication as a result of rowing.” she continued.

There are obvious physical benefits to adaptive rowing for wounded veterans. Studies show that rowing can help increase lower extremity bone mass, aerobic capacity, and blood lipid profiles. Some hospitals have partnered with rowing clubs to bring specific types of adaptive rowing to wounded veterans.  For example, Spaulding Research Hospital has partnered with Community Rowing Inc. in Boston to bring Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) rowing to individuals with Spinal Cord Injury.  FES is a technology that allows paralyzed muscles to contribute to whole body exercise.

As Freedom Rows prepares to expand into ten more partnerships next year, they stress that once clubs bring adaptive rowing into their boathouse, it will benefit not only the adaptive athletes, but the rowing club as a whole. “Once we buy the equipment for the program, and the veteran needs have been met, the club can use that equipment,” says Debbie. “It’s not exclusively reserved for the vets. There is a mutual benefit.”

Bringing in equipment and fostering an inclusive attitude in boathouses does not come without its challenges. Sometimes, clubs or coaches may not have had experience with adaptive rowers. USRowing has an Adaptive Rowing Manual available to coaches in need of resources when an adaptive rower joins the team. “Our biggest role is spreading the information so that we can educate everyone,” says Debbie of the toolkit. “As we learn more about different disabilities, we can continue to educate coaches and clubs.”

What remains clear is that rowing provides opportunities for all people,
including disadvantaged youth, athletes with disabilities, and people looking for a community.

“What’s unique about the rowing is that despite the disabilities, between a rowing machine and being on the water, we have a way to adapt the equipment,” says Deb. “No matter what your disability is, we can get you rowing. You can’t say that about a lot of sports.”

At Catch & Feather, we believe that everyone should have the freedom to experience the transformative power of rowing, and applaud Freedom Rows for giving veterans an opportunity to get into the boat!

For more info or to make a contribution:


photo courtesy of US Rowing

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