TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Wabash Valley Crew members competed over the holiday season without having to brave the Wabash River’s whipping winds, and they did so to benefit charity.

Armed with a series of Concept 2 rowing machines, team members were able to row at their leisure from the comfort of their own homes, Wabash Valley Crew Board President Jim Owen explained. For every kilometer (1,000 meters) that a crew member rowed between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, Concept 2 donated money to The Pocock “A Most Beautiful Thing” Inclusion Fund, which mentors children and raises awareness of the opportunities rowing offers the disadvantaged.

“A Most Beautiful Thing” is a documentary, based on a book by Arshay Cooper, tells the story of the first all-black rowing team of which Cooper was a member. “It’s a very moving story,” Owen said, recalling Cooper’s hardscrabble life in Chicago with no father, a drug-addicted mother and as a gang member. A local businessman and his wife created an opportunity for Cooper’s school to learn how to row, which created that historic rowing team.

After reading Cooper’s book, Owen has had the athlete visit Terre Haute twice. Last year, Cooper shared his life story at all five area middle schools, and even took some students to the Wabash to participate in some rowing. “He’s very low-key and works great with kids,” Owen said. “He was very engaging — when he first saw the Wabash, he was on his cell phone saying, ‘You can’t believe this place — it’s almost as good as the Sarasota (River)!”

Earlier this year, just before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, Cooper returned to Terre Haute to host screenings of “A Most Beautiful Thing,” including a free screening for students at the AMC Theatres on March 13. On March 12, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett proclaimed the day “Arshay Cooper Day” in Terre Haute.

For the Holiday Challenge, Concept 2 donated two cents per kilometer (1,000 meters) rowed. Ethan Kirsh, a member of Notre Dame University’s rowing team, led all teammates with 273,753 meters rowed. He was followed by John Callahan, a Wabash Crew board member, with 200,138. Haley Overton rowed 152,031 meters, Diane Rogers rowed 100,124, Morgan Hughes rowed 100,025 and Ava Rogers rowed 50,169.