Oohs and aahs for sweet new Toffey Rowing Center

Chris Ryan and Shotsi Lajoie [Photo: Kaila Jones]

Supporters of Vero Beach Rowing were given a first peek at the nonprofit’s brand-new Toffey Rowing Center at a Donor Appreciation Reception last Tuesday afternoon.

The graceful 14,736-square-foot, two-story building has ground-floor boat and equipment storage space, while the second floor contains a large central room opening to the John and Lindy Kastendiek veranda, offices, restrooms with lockers and showers, and a kitchen.

Todd Young, board president, reminded guests that the organization got its start in 2008, rowing in the C-54 canal in Fellsmere, before moving to the water treatment plant by the Alma Lee Loy Bridge in 2013, and finally to MacWilliam Park at the base of the Barber Bridge, beginning in 2016.

“So we’ve gone from the swamp to the sewer plant to this beautiful area here,” said Young, adding “it’s a pretty amazing accomplishment.”

“I always say in every group I’m in, together we make a whole person, because nothing gets done without everyone’s participation,” said Shotsi Lajoie, campaign co-chair with Chris Ryan, thanking everyone involved in the project.

Lajoie commented that at an upcoming grand opening, they will dedicate a new boat in memory of Grace Rett, the young Holy Cross rower whose life was so tragically lost during a recent traffic accident.

Introducing Ryan, Lajoie said, “I’ve never seen anybody with more drive; more determination and skills. He brought such a layer of strength to those of us who were struggling to break rowing into Vero.”

“It’s been 10 years since we did our first presentation to the City Council. And here we are in this beautiful location,” said Ryan, adding that they are just shy of their $2.5 million goal, thanks to “vision, commitment and teamwork,” words highlighted on their donor wall.

Ryan said they were thankful for several leadership gifts given by Jim and Sally Toffey, saying that in each case, their donation was critical, enabling them to move to the next step.

“Gathered here today are many old rowers; I’m one of them,” said Ryan, adding that while most are not still rowing, they had a love for the sport and thought enough about it to help build the boathouse. “It’s a testimony to the value of rowing in your life.”

At a boat-naming ceremony afterward, Brian Colgan, director of rowing, sliced champagne tops off with a saber, and three newly named boats – the Klaas, the Veni Vidi Vici and the Sally N. Toffey – were christened.

Jim Toffey said he had three words to offer: “Ready all; row! It’s been a long time being associated with rowers, and I’ve yet to meet one I didn’t like. And you’re no exception; this group here is fantastic.”

Sally Toffey agreed with that assessment, adding with a smile, “May the winds always be at your back.”

For more information, visit verobeachrowing.org.

Photos by: Kaila Jones
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