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.
Ever since she learned to swim at 3-years-old, Shonda Scott has found solace in the water.
It was where she learned to control and even overcome her asthma at age 10, and the skill served her well when she worked as a lifeguard while completing her degree at UCLA – allowing her to continue her passion for swimming.
But swimming has proven to give Scott so much more than that. It’s also given her an outlet and a means to remember and honor her cousin Shannan, who died from breast cancer in 1996. For the past nine years, Scott has participated in a swimming event to benefit the Women with Cancer fundraiser as a way to give back and remember her and all the other women who have succumbed to the disease.
The past couple of years, her son, Austin, now 16, has joined her in the pool, and the two swam this past October to raise awareness together.
It’s become a tradition that they both look forward to every year.
“She (Shannan) had a strong will and sharp tongue even at a young age, but she had a heart of gold and was fun to be around, the type of person that would give you the shirt off her back,” said Scott, who swam all strokes as an AAU swimmer with freestyle being her best stroke before she stopped swimming competitively during her junior year of high school. “We were more like sisters than cousins because our birthday's were weeks apart. Her diagnosis and battle ultimately taught me how to prioritize what is important in life and to not let petty things bother me, for it just wastes time you can't get back.
“The training for my swim is my physical sacrifice in honor of what my cousin went through as she struggled with her life during her battle with cancer. Austin is a leisure swimmer, but he loves to swim, especially with his mom. It is one of our bonding workouts and calming activities.”
While getting involved with the fundraiser was a first step for Scott to give back, she has become more involved with cancer awareness by raising money for the Women’s Cancer Research Center (WCRC) in Oakland, Calif.
She created Pink Access, which started as a party with a purpose – a breast cancer fundraiser – to raise money for the WCRC. The event has evolved into a foundation, the Pink Access Foundation, which raises money and awareness for grassroots nonprofits providing services to cancer survivors.
“Carrie's TOUCH, founded by a dear friend of mine, is the reason I created the Pink Access event as a way to raise much needed funds for her organization,” said Scott, who owns 360 Total Concept LLC, a public relations firm. “That was four years ago, and each year it grows and is now known as the celebration of survivors. We are the blessing to these organizations that need resources to support the great work they do. The foundation allowed us to do more, and give more to more organizations.”
Having a family member die from breast cancer has prompted Scott to get an annual mammogram, and part of the funds raised at her foundation’s Pink Access and Lavender, Too, event, go to help partner organizations to host mammogram screening events.
Coming from a family based in social justice values, Scott said giving back is what they do. Before Austin joined her in the swim fundraiser, he sat poolside with family and friends to cheer on his mom – learning at an early age that life is not just about receiving; it’s about giving, too.
“We believe as you give you shall receive. The giving is first!” Scott said. “Deciding to give back through swimming got me back in the pool and helped me realize how much I truly love to swim, and how important that is for my overall well-being and soul.”
And each time she swims, Scott said she remembers Shannan and the fight and determination she showed to fight the cancer that eventually took her life – giving her perspective and motivation.
“There is always a moment during every swim that is emotional to me,” Scott said. “It is the moment while I am swimming – enjoying the day, getting through the laps – and then the thought of why I am swimming crosses my mind. The moment that touches my heart is the thought that my cousin is gone, and I am here to swim, to give honor to her journey. Through the foundation's mission, her journey continues.”