By Jessica Delos Reyes//Sr. Manager, Corporate Communications | Tuesday, October 22, 2019
“Swimmers helping swimming” – that’s the tagline that president of Maryland Swimming Anna Summerfield said her LSC would use from now on, and after what occurred at the United States Aquatic Sports Convention in September, it couldn’t be more fitting.
After an impassioned presentation by three-time Olympic gold medalist and USA Swimming Foundation Ambassador Rowdy Gaines about the Foundation’s mission to “Save Lives and Build Champions,” Summerfield and Tom Himes, head coach at North Baltimore Aquatic Club (NBAC), issued a challenge to the attendees at the USA Swimming House of Delegates meeting.
“We at NBAC know and respect the mission of the Foundation, and we will be donating $5 per registered swimmer beginning this year, and every September thereafter,” Himes declared at the meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. “I’m challenging every other team in the United States to donate $1-5 for every registered swimmer to the Foundation. That would be an immense amount of money and not a lot out of each club.”
NBAC has a storied history in American swimming as it’s produced 11 Olympic athletes who’ve won 37 Olympic medals, as well as numerous world, American and national record holders.
“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Himes said, during a visit in October to the USA Swimming headquarters in Colorado Springs. Himes mentioned he ran the idea of making a challenge past Gaines prior to convention and he loved the idea. “This is to support the Foundation, which is us spreading the good word of swimming. At the low end is swimming lessons and the very high end is our elite athletes. Rowdy talks about this all the time [with the Foundation] – saving lives. How can you go wrong? It’s a little thing that I think all the members of our team can take pride in contributing to.”
First to pick up the challenge was physician Dr. Dilaawar (Danny) Mistry. Though he’s been involved with USA Swimming for years, serving as National Team physician on Open Water World Championships and World University Games teams, Himes’ challenge spoke to the new father on a deeper level.
“Tom mentioned some stats from the Foundation, such as drowning is the leading cause of death for kids under five, and I happen to be an older dad of a beautiful five-year-old who loves swimming,” Mistry said. “I’ve had my kid go underwater – he’s fearless and jumps in the deep water – and you want to go outdoors, go kayaking or swim in a lake and he just jumps into the deep end because he’s so fearless. I thought about how many kids who do that and don’t have people watching them and they die. That rung true to my heart with my own child and I just loved Tom’s idea.”
Mistry was a part of the Sports Science Network team that received the Adolf Kiefer Safety Commendation during the convention. This award is presented to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to safe swimming in the United States and Mistry used his acceptance speech to echo Himes’ challenge. Mistry pledged $5 per patient per month that visits his medical practice in Fort Collins, Colorado, and estimates he sees about 60 patients per month and plans to pledge $1,200 this year alone. He even said someone stopped him after his speech, noting he wanted to pick up the challenge as well.
“I don’t think there’s anybody out there who can’t do something like that,” Himes said. “It’s a good cause that supports our mission – and swimming’s our game. If we can support spreading swimming – just teaching somebody how to swim – that’s a plus. Not to mention the support of our very top-level, elite athletes. I thought ‘this is what we’re going to do as a team.’ Even if [the Foundation] got $100 from each team? I think it’s a very reasonable thing to shoot for. This is our organization. The Foundation is another wing of our sport, and it’s a way our team can contribute, and I think everyone else can too.”
The USA Swimming Foundation is the philanthropic arm of USA Swimming. Established in 2004, the Foundation works to strengthen the sport by supporting programs that provide free and reduced-cost swim lessons to children across the U.S., as well as providing funding to members of the U.S. National Team. In 2019 alone, the USA Swimming Foundation distributed $618,200 in grants to 117 programs that provide free or reduced-cost swim lessons in underserved communities around the country. In the past 12 years, $6.3 million in grants have been distributed to the Foundation’s swim lesson provider network of more than 1,000 providers across all 50 states.
If you or your organization wish to make a challenge donation as well, please contact Jill Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.