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
Having grown up in the YWCA Central Massachusetts swim program, Patty Flanagan has a special place in her heart for the organization. She loves it so much that she works there today as the director of health promotion services.
Because of all that the YWCA has given to her over the years, Flanagan, who has been a member at Salem Square in Worchester, Mass., since 1973, is doing something to give back.
She’s swimming on behalf of the organization in the Boston Light Swim this Saturday, August 18, and hopes to raise upwards of $5,000 for her beloved second home. As of August 15, she had pledges in excess of $3,700.
The Boston Light Swim is the oldest open water swim marathon in the United States, and many swimmers in the past have used the race as preparation for swims across the English Channel. The race begins at Boston Light on Little Brewster and continues past George’s Island and Rainsford Island around Thompson’s Island. It finishes at the L Street Bathhouse in South Boston.
“I do a lot of coaching of triathletes and I’ve always liked to enter races myself, so when someone mentioned the Boston Light Swim to me, an eight-mile swim around the Boston Harbor sounded ideal and a great way for me to give back to the YWCA, an organization that has given me so much,” Flanagan said. “I’ve run the Boston Marathon a few times, so swimming this event is another step for me and a good exercise because it’s always been a dream of mine to swim the English Channel some day.”
An accomplished long-distance swimmer who was a standout at the College of the Holy Cross in the 1980s, Flanagan has been training for the event for many months and has logged more than 100 miles in the water. In late June, she completed a 3.1-mile qualifying swim in Mashpee, finishing first in her age group.
Flanagan also has spent several hours at least one morning each week swimming in a nearby lake and makes time to swim several days a week in the YWCA pool. As per rules of the event, she isn’t allowed to wear a wet suit during the Boston Light Swim and must stay in the water the entire route of the 8-mile swim. Her goal is to complete the event in less than four hours.
Flanagan spent her early swimming years competing for YWCA Central Massachusetts, attending a Friday-afternoon drop-in program where she had a variety of activities followed by an open swim. Later, she gave swim lessons to other young YWCA athletes.
She spent her teen years in Synchro-maids, a team she enjoyed watching as a child and said working at the YWCA gave her the skills and confidence to succeed in other aspects of her life.
“My experiences at the YWCA have helped mold me into the person I am today, and the organization has given me so much that I’m eager to do something to give back to it,” Flanagan said. “As for the race itself, I don’t respond well to cold water, so getting ready for the race has taken a lot of mental preparation on my part. I’m more focused on the challenge of the event rather than distance or time.”
Flanagan singled out the excellent role models she had in her life, especially at the YWCA, who helped her to learn responsibility and for holding her accountable for her work as both an athlete and YWCA employee.
Flanagan added that good health and opportunities in her life leave her wanting to do something to give back to others.
Just as the YWCA gives back to the community through its various program and services, she wants to do something to help sustain those programs and services through this endeavor.
“The YWCA provides so many necessary, great services and programs to the community,” Flanagan said. “I hope that everyone who learns of my swim challenge decides to learn more about us. I also hope that people will decide to include the YWCA in their charitable giving.”
To learn more and/or support Flanagan’s mission for the YWCA, visit www.firstgiving.com and search for Patty Flanagan Boston Light Swim.
*The Worcester Telegram & Gazette contributed to this story.