Donna Ross Memorial Regatta sets sail May 18

‘Go the Distance’ for mental health

Rick Lucarelli’s boat ‘Donna Sue’ serves as a floating memorial to Donna Ross. Her name is stenciled on the boat in her own handwriting.

(ROCKWALL – May 9, 2013) Registration is underway for the Donna Ross Memorial Regatta, an annual sailing event that pays tribute to a wife, mother and tireless community volunteer, while raising funds for the Mental Health Association of Greater Dallas.

The long distance, pursuit-style race will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 18 at Chandlers Landing on Lake Ray Hubbard.

There will be a pre-race party from 7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, May 16 at Bridge Bistro, located in the shadow of Dallas’ Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. An awards ceremony and post-race celebration at Allure at Chandlers Landing will follow Saturday’s regatta.

“Last year’s inaugural race was a tremendous success with 28 registered boats,” said Rick Lucarelli, Donna Ross’ son. “The regatta is a great way to honor my mother’s memory, while raising mental health awareness.”

Local sailors Dan Malak and Scott Self are organizing the race along with Lucarelli. They explained that Donna died unexpectedly in February of 2011. While mental illness was not the cause of her death, she suffered from severe depression most of her adult life.

“Rick believes that one of the major challenges that affected his mother, and those close to her, was the secrecy in which she felt she must live regarding her mental illness,” said Malak.  “We embark upon this regatta in her honor, so that those affected by mental illness may live openly and without shame about the disease. We hope this event will help individuals seek treatment sooner, and foster an environment of support.”

Donna Ross

In spite of her debilitating disease, Donna taught high school and college biology and environmental science for many years.  She also worked as an environmental consultant to engineering firms where she delineated and mitigated wetlands for development projects.  She championed wildlife preservation causes, and was an active volunteer for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Sierra Club and Saguaro National Park where she volunteered the day she passed away.  She was an avid hiker, wildflower specialist and sailor. She is greatly missed by her family, friends, husband (Ken Ross), two sons (Rick and Drew Lucarelli), a daughter (Melissa Bieseker), and four grandchildren.

“She shared her love of the natural world with all of those around her and introduced many to sailing,” said Lucarelli.

Race registration is $15, and can be completed online at  Sponsorship opportunities are available.

“We encourage spectators to get involved and enjoy a beautiful day at the lake for a great cause,” said Malak, who also hosts the Chandlers Landing-Bayview Marina weekly sailing races on Lake Ray Hubbard. “Our sport is open to anyone who would like to participate, either with their own boat or as crew on one of the race boats. Another avenue into our sport is to meet up with the sailors who normally gather at Allure after each race.”

By Dawn Redig, Blue Ribbon News.