Impact Profile: Julia Kelling of Row New York

Our Impact Profiles celebrate the DonorUP community. We’re talking to non-profit founders, directors, and donors alike about what they care about most and their unique missions. 

We sat down with Julia Kelling, the Development & Special Events Manager at Row New York to talk about making the sport accessible to all and empowering student athletes of all abilities and backgrounds.

What is RowNY? 

Row New York is a sports based youth development organization (a mouthful, I know) that pairs the sport of rowing with academic support and college readiness for New Yorkers who live in underserved communities. Our mission is to use the sport of rowing to change lives inside and outside of the classroom. We serve nearly 300 student-athletes, year round, six days a week, in our youth programs. In addition, Row New York offers an adaptive program that serves New Yorkers with cognitive and physical disabilities, including veterans.

Tell us about your Philanthropic Identity. What brought you to this work?

Row New York is the perfect representation of the interests, experiences, and values that have come to define my life. I was a rower throughout high school and college, and made the decision to work in the nonprofit sector after interning with the MET’s development department.  When I first heard about Row New York from my high school rowing coach—who is a longtime fan and supporter of the organization—I knew that I needed to join the Row New York crew (get it!?). I have experienced firsthand how rowing teaches tenacity, hard work, accountability, and I understand the unique community that boathouses build. Like Row New York, I share the belief that this sport should be accessible to everyone.  

What was one of the most meaningful moments for RNY in the past 18 months?

There have been quite a few! 

One hundred percent of students in our Class of 2019 graduated from high school on time and gained acceptance to college! We are excited to see our alumni now attending schools including the Macaulay Honors College at the City University of New York, New York University, the Rochester Institute of Technology, Fordham University, and Middlebury College.

In June, we went public with our capital campaign, announcing our plan to build a new boathouse and community learning center on the Harlem River. The boathouse project is lead by Lord Norman Foster who is designing the building pro-bono. It not only is going to be amazingly beautiful, but  it will also serve as an invaluable asset for Row New York and the upper Manhattan community. 

To top it off, just a few weeks ago we had our most successful Fall Benefit to date. The event is our largest fundraiser of the year and it is always a great way to celebrate all of the hard work our students, staff, and supporters put in all year long. 

We believe giving is a lifestyle. What does giving back mean to you personally?

I’m very lucky to work somewhere that aligns so naturally with the things that I care about and have impacted my life. 

How do you keep your team and/or your donors motivated? 

Working behind the scenes in a nonprofit can be challenging because you are removed from day to day programming. To stay motivated internally, we make sure we are regularly getting out to our boathouses and making an effort to spend time with our student-athletes. Whenever we hold our team outings or site visits at the boathouses, we come back feeling energized by the organization’s mission. The same goes with our donors. Not only is seeing our programs in action the most effective way to see our work, but people genuinely enjoy getting outside and witnessing our rowing community—it is infectious! All it takes to make your day better is to get out on the water, sometimes I can’t believe I am still in the city!  It is also especially fun for me as it reminds me of all my days spent rowing in high school and college. 

To learn more about Row New York or support this amazing group, click here!

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