by Aerial Gilbert

Rowing is coming to the ACB conference in Phoenix. This is the third year the ACB Fitness Equipment Equity Task Force has sponsored the indoor rowing event. It will take place on two evenings at the Recreation Zone.

Three years ago I approached Oral Miller with the idea of having rowing as an event at the ACB conference. As a rower himself for the Princeton crew team, Oral immediately related his experience of being recruited to the crew because he was tall. We shared our stories of competing and the thrill of competing on an equal playing field with sighted athletes.

As a competitive rower and the outreach manager for Guide Dogs for the Blind it has been exciting for me to share my two passions -- rowing and guide dogs -- with the participants of the ACB conference. Rowing is a sport I enjoyed in college prior to losing my sight and I was able to continue to row after I became blind.

I was on the U.S. National Adaptive team for 6 years and helped bring rowing to the Paralympics. I continue to row on a local rowing team where I am the only athlete who is blind out of 400 rowers. I appreciate having the opportunity to promote the sport of rowing and share information about guide dogs through the ACB conference.

You may wonder how rowing relates to my job as the outreach manager for Guide Dogs for the Blind. Having a guide dog promotes an active lifestyle. The activity level varies with the individual, but the dog still needs regular daily exercise. Many people considering a guide dog ask me how my dog fits into all the training and activities I do. Splash, my 3-year-old female German shepherd, accompanies me to the gym and boathouse daily. When I am on the water rowing, she rides on the boat with my coach.

This year in Phoenix, the Rio Salado Rowing Club will be bringing rowing machines and volunteers to teach the rowing stroke and to coach you through your competition. Concept 2, the company that manufactures the rowing machines, will be providing many prizes. There will be events for gender and age groups as we have done in past years.

Please come by the Recreation Zone to learn about adaptive rowing. The dates will be announced closer to convention time. I will also be in the exhibit hall with Splash at the GDB booth to provide school updates and answer any questions about the guide dog lifestyle.

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