By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Long-time USA Swimming corporate partner Phillips 66 has been a sponsor since 1973 and involved in the sport overall for seven decades. Today, Phillips 66 believes they can improve lives through energy, and in that spirit, usaswimming.org is highlighting swimmers of all levels who have benefited from Phillips 66's contribution and chosen to give back to the sport of swimming or to their community.
When Taryn Gerson wanted to create an event for breast cancer awareness, the Purdue student noticed most were land-based.
“Whether it’s a walk-a-thon or run-a-thon, there wasn’t much being done in the water (for breast cancer awareness),” Gerson said. “The idea came to me from my interest in the swimming community and my involvement with my sorority’s philanthropic cause, breast cancer awareness and education. I wanted to unite the swimming community and make an impact on raising money for this cause.”
With this in mind, Gerson started Breaststroke 4 Hope, a grassroots nonprofit dedicated to raising money for breast cancer education and awareness through fundraising in the water and sales of Breaststroke 4 Hope merchandise. The inaugural event took place this past January at the Purdue University Aquatics Center in West Lafayette, Ind.
The one-hour event brought together over 160 swimmers comprising 30 teams from the Purdue Greek community joined by the Purdue swim teams who swam more than 2,700 laps in the event. Participants raised money by reaching out into their communities to collect pledges and flat donations. In total, more than 1,000 individuals from the Greek community and Purdue campus came out to support the event.
This fall, due to a direct connection with Speedo, Gerson worked out a deal to have Breaststroke 4 Hope products like pink Speedo swimsuits, caps, goggles, bags and T-shirts sold via the company’s website. A portion of the proceeds are donated to Breaststroke 4 Hope and are available at Speedousa.com.
“I felt that with their (Speedo) impact on the swimming community, we could get the message out about this important cause,” Gerson said. “Speedo is focused on supporting the core swim community and philanthropic causes, so this was a natural fit.”
Last year’s event raised more than $10,000, and with more than 250 swimmers expected to participate just from the Purdue campus this November, combined with proceeds from the Speedo merchandise sales, Gerson said she hopes to raise more than $100,000.
Breaststroke 4 Hope supports the Women’s Breast Health Initiative, www.flbreasthealth.com, which gives women who don’t have health insurance free mammograms as well as information on how to conduct self-examinations.
“This is not our only event, as we are also hosting events with swim clubs and high schools around the country this year,” Gerson said. “Organizations and teams can sign up for an event at our website, www.breaststroke4hope.com. The response has been amazing, and we look forward to spreading the message through our promotions, website, twitter and Facebook.”
Gerson said that while she hasn’t been directly impacted by breast cancer, she knows others who have and along with her sorority sisters, the cause is very close to her heart and personal mission.
“To be honest, there is nothing more in the world I would rather do,” said Gerson, who swam competitively from ages 10 to 12 but chose to focus on land-based sports soccer and basketball in junior high but never lost her love for the water. “I have been extremely blessed with my life and have the most supportive and amazing family.
“While in college, I needed to decide what I wanted to do with my life, and there has been no greater satisfaction than giving back. I can guarantee that I will continue to give back and help families affected by breast cancer.”
If you or your swim club is interested in holding your own Breaststroke 4 Hope event, please contact Gerson at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the organization, check out its website, www.breaststroke4hope.com.
“The goal is simple…to raise money for breast cancer education and awareness,” Gerson said. “Remember, you know someone… who knows someone… who knows.”