Alum Rows Atlantic for Cancer, Theta Chi Hosts Event in Support

On January 1, 2009, Colgate alumnus Paul Ridley ’05 set off from the Canary Islands, just off the coast of northwestern Africa, to begin his 3,000 mile rowing expedition. Ridley, who has been rowing without assistance or any form of aid for the past 62 consecutive days, plans to reach his destination, the Caribbean, in approximately 20 days. If Ridley completes this task successfully, he will be the third American in history to row across the Atlantic.

Ridley’s goal is not fame, but rather to raise funds for cancer research. After his mother passed away from cancer in 2001, Ridley and his sister, Joy, helped create “Row for Hope,” a non-profit organization that raises money for cancer research. By rowing across the Atlantic, Ridley receives donations from supporters all over the nation who believe in his cause. Ridley hopes to raise $500,000 through his excursion across the Atlantic.

After hearing about Ridley’s charity organization, his Theta Chi fraternity brothers rallied behind him and held a “Row for Hope” charity event on the night of Saturday, March 1.

While it included catered food and good music, the highlight of the night was the erg races. An ‘erg’ is an exercise machine that simulates rowing. A complex bracket was created, and students could sponsor any of the 16 Theta Chi brothers who were racing against each other.

When asked about his nerves before the race, sophomore Matt Woodrow said, “I wasn’t nervous. It was pretty low-key compared to practice.”

Sophomore Janice Yu disagreed. After competing for 30 seconds in a spontaneous erg competition, she appreciated Ridley’s efforts much more.

“I couldn’t imagine rowing forfive hours a day!” Yu said.

Winner of the Theta Chi erg competition was Colgate rowing team captain, senior Willie Fox.

“It was a lot of fun racing my roommate, Marc Cassone, in the last round and I loved how pumped up the crowd got over the competition,” Fox said. “I wish they’d come to crew practice sometime.”

In addition to the excitement and loud cheering taking place during the races, the brothers’ distinct choice of apparel was quite astonishing.

“I really enjoyed the event, particularly the erg competition,” senior Bridget Henwood said. “It’s pretty hard to beat watching a bunch of guys in goofy colored spandex compete for glory while [senior] Chris Micsak delivers a completely outrageous and scathing commentary, especially when it’s all for a great cause.”

“The Row for Hope event was a fun, innovative philanthropy for Theta Chi and the Men’s Crew Team,” senior Katherine Pezzella said. “Even if Paul Ridley ends his trip, I’m sure this is something that will be a big hit for years to come at Theta Chi. If you didn’t go, you missed out on a lot of laughs for a great cause!”

Woodrow echoed Pezzella’s comments.

“I was really pleased with the turnout. I know he [Ridley] is really appreciative of the efforts of brothers here on campus,” Woodrow said.

Ridley commented on Theta Chi’s support through his blog Saturday night via satellite software.

“Quick shout-out to the brothers of Theta Chi Fraternity at Colgate University, who are throwing a fundraiser/party on behalf of Row for Hope, complete with rowing machine races by the brothers, which will be entertaining for sure,” Ridley said. “For anyone betting on the outcome of these races, my advice is that, no matter the relative size of the competitors, always bet on the experienced rower.”

The Theta Chi brothers considered the event to be an amazing success.

“We raised over $2,300,” Theta Chi Philanthropy Chair sophomore Will Scheider said. “Based on the success of the event, we are seriously considering making ‘Row for Hope’ an annual event at Theta Chi. The cause isn’t going to go away and we’ve already started talking about future plans.”

When asked through e-mail about his experiences on the Atlantic, Ridley offered fond recollections of the four years he spent at Colgate.

“To pass time during my 5-hour rowing shifts I think back to Colgate all the time,” he said. “I’ve played imaginary rounds of golf at Seven Oaks, remembered my old rooms and roommates in Center Stillman, Drake and the Theta Chi house, checked my mail at the Coop between classes (my mailbox combo was I-E-A and a half), and taken the long walk down the hill for nights out at the Jug, Nichols and Beal and of course Slices (I haven’t re-lived the cold walk back up!). It’s great to know that while I’m out here, almost as far away from campus as I could possibly be, people back at Colgate are following my progress, pitching in to help raise money for Row for Hope, and cheering me on.”