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Rowers Seek Ways To Help Others Amid COVID-19

Nov 30, 2020

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From the Fall, 2020, edition of SWEEP Magazine
From COVID-19 testing and disinfecting to protecting first-responders, Washington rowers and alumni are among the nation's selfless volunteers and frontline workers helping protect vulnerable people during the pandemic.
Alum Dan Nelson ('73), Disability Officer for the Seattle Fire Department, led the development of protocols to keep firefighters safe and to help those infected by the coronavirus.
"Since we were the first city department (in the nation) affected, we had the honor of building a program from scratch that is now being used in many other places," explains Dan. "I ended up working 43 days in a row to get everything in place."
"Crew definitely prepared me for these challenges," he adds. "I learned more on the lake, on the erg and running stairs than in any single class during my undergrad days. Rowing has given me the tools for graduate and professional school, two careers and raising six successful kids."
Another former rower, Giuseppe Lanzone ('05) and his Peruvian Brothers food truck and catering company distributed 40,000 pounds of avocados to food banks in the Washington D.C. area.
Senior philosophy major Klara Grube cleaned and sanitized rooms, took temperatures, served lunch and comforted young people at the ROOTS youth homeless shelter on The Ave. In her home country of Germany, the standout Husky rower rarely saw people living on the streets.
"I was very shaken by how prevalent homelessness is so close to campus," she says. "A lot of shelters had to close due to COVID, which put marginalized people even more at risk. I've learned about the homelessness situation in the U.S. from my minor in Law, Society and Justice and I felt I could take the risk to help other people."
During the height of the crisis in April and May, Klara and her boyfriend — rower Pau Turina, who graduated in June 2020 — volunteered for six hours a day, one day a week. "There were times we were overwhelmed. It was a lot to deal with," Klara notes. "It changed our perspectives and made us more grateful for what we have."
Sophomore environmental studies major Andrew Mathison has spent more than six years as a summer lifeguard in his hometown of Warm Beach, California. A lifelong swimmer and "beach kid" who discovered rowing in his late teens, Andrew expanded upon his lifeguarding duties to join other Fire Department staff in administering COVID-19 tests in underprivileged neighborhoods.
"Whole families would drive up in their cars, looking so nervous," he recalls. "To be able to help them get their tests was fulfilling, giving them the satisfaction of knowing if they were sick or not. It was hard to see the situations they were in; adding this stress was harder on them."
Andrew says he was inspired by the first-responders "who put themselves at risk every day. I was just grateful I could help."