Between La Gomera in the Canary Islands and the English Harbour in Antigua lie 3,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean whose harsh conditions set the stage for one of the most grueling rowing races on the planet. Two years from now, a team that coalesced on the waters of Seneca Lake will attempt this World’s Toughest Row. As they prepare, Cornell Law School’s Entrepreneurship Clinic is equipping them for their goal of raising $550,000 for charity along the way.
Named Seneca Navy, the international team consists of David Ranney and Ryan Mulfur, of the U.S.; Anthony Carella, of Canada; and Moritz Marchart, of Germany. The four met through Hobart College’s rowing program, where they were also teammates with current Cornell Law 3L and Entrepreneurship Clinic student Stephen Ponticiello. After initially assisting the team on his own, Ponticiello brought the project to the clinic’s attention.
He and fellow clinic members are now helping Seneca Navy apply for 501(c)(3) status and form a nonprofit entity to support the application, arranging fiscal sponsorships to enable charitable fundraising in the meantime, creating contracts for corporate sponsors, and drafting terms between the team and the nonprofits to which it will donate any excess funds.
“Although I am doing this work so early in my legal career, I already know it will be one of my proudest accomplishments when I look back many years from now,” says Ponticiello. “I cannot speak highly enough of the rowers involved in this project, or my team members and supervisor in the Entrepreneurship Clinic. Everyone has shown such incredible devotion to getting these guys across the finish line.”
Clinic director Celia Bigoness says that she’s aiming for the clinic to complete all of the legal groundwork for fundraising by the end of the term, allowing Seneca Navy to set legal concerns aside and focus on their charitable work – alongside training for a race that they hope not just to finish but to win, perhaps setting a world record in the process.
Meanwhile, clinic students are learning core skills like drafting contracts and doing regulatory research, along with managing a complex legal assignment on a tight deadline. “The students are getting a chance to learn and refine these skills even before they graduate,” says Bigoness, “which will give them an advantage when they start their careers.”
She adds, “This is a chance to help a group of young individuals who are just out of college, without the means to hire paid legal counsel, and who are devoting the next several years to a massive charitable fundraising endeavor.” The team’s planned beneficiaries are the Boys and Girls Club chapters of Cleveland, Toronto, and Boston.
“The Cornell Entrepreneurship Clinic’s top-tier legal support has been a game-changer to establish Team Seneca Navy 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization,” says Moritz, speaking on behalf of the team. “Their support not only empowers us to set a strong legal foundation with potential partners and sponsors, but also significantly reduces our fees and expenses – allowing us to redirect tens of thousands of dollars towards supporting children in need.”