Sept. 24, 2013
By Tayler Turner ('14)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- The notion to "pay it forward" and give back to the community has long been a motif at the University of Notre Dame. Although all Notre Dame students value this mindset, it took on an even deeper meaning for the women on the Irish rowing team when their lives three years ago were shaken by the tragic deaths of two women close to the heart of the team.
The mother of Irish rower Sarah McShane (a 2013 graduate) and the mother of the team's advisor in the Student-Athlete Academic Services Office, Kassen Delano Gunderman, were both diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancer. It is virtually incurable with an average life expectancy of approximately three to six months following diagnosis.
In typical Notre Dame form, the rowers did not let their friends and fellow teammates mourn alone. Instead, they took it upon themselves to find a way to combat pancreatic cancer and make a difference in the lives of many people.
And thus the Erg-A-Thon was born.
In 2011, one year after both women passed away, assistant coach Marnie Stahl encouraged the team to get more involved in community service work, and the Erg-A-Thon seemed to be the perfect endeavor. Not only did it give back to the community, but it also works toward a cause that hit home for many of the team's members.
The general idea of the Erg-A-Thon is a daylong fundraiser in which members of the rowing team sets up ergs (machines used to simulate and practice rowing) so the public can come and try them out. Throughout the day the team will participate in erg-races, sell T-shirts and bracelets, and raffle off prizes such as a basketball autographed by head women's basketball coach Muffet McGraw, a football autographed by head football coach Brian Kelly and two tickets to the Notre Dame vs. USC football game.
"It's a fun atmosphere," says Anna VanEgmond, a senior on the rowing team and co-chair of the event. "It's upbeat, music's going, there's a spirit of competition, but at the same time, there's a solemn awareness of those whom we are helping through this event."
Senior rower and fellow co-chair Kelsey Sekanick couldn't agree more. Both girls emphasize the importance of having a good time while giving back.
"It's a fun event, but we realize that we are all working towards the common, greater goal of raising awareness and funding for pancreatic cancer research," Sekanick says.
All proceeds from the event go towards the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and Harper Cancer Research Institute to fund research on pancreatic cancer. But this year proceeds will also directly affect the Notre Dame community.
"The great new thing about the Erg-A-Thon this year is that a portion of the money is going to fund undergraduate research at Notre Dame via Harper Research Institute," says VanEgmond.
In its first year in 2011, the Erg-A-Thon was a smash hit, raising over $3,000 for pancreatic cancer research. This number was doubled in its second year. The team hopes to continue this trend and elevate the proceeds raised at this year's event, as well as events in the future.
"It has been incredible to see how this event has grown over the past three years," says senior Christina Dines. "We hope that as our event grows, and as we generate more proceeds, awareness for pancreatic cancer grows both on and off campus."
The Irish rowing team has high expectations for the event this year. Sekanick says they've been working hard to make it bigger and better each year. Through the use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the team has gotten word out about the fundraiser to more people than in years past.
"We're really trying to pay it forward," VanEgmond says. "We've been privileged with a lot of great opportunities, like the chance to be rowers at Notre Dame, and we really just want to show our appreciation for that opportunity by helping other people."
Come out and help the rowing team pay it forward from noon-8 p.m. (ET) Friday (Sept. 27) at the Fieldhouse Mall (behind the LaFortune Student Center) or make a donation online by CLICKING HERE. Not only will you be showing support for your Irish rowers, but you will be helping to find a cure for pancreatic cancer as well!
Raffle prices: 1 ticket/$5 or 6 tickets/$25 for chance to win...
Other ways to contribute
All donations are greatly appreciated!