Swimming many do it for exercise. Few do it for a noble cause.
For over a decade, community members have put their love of swimming into motion to raise funds for the Child Life Program at Winthrop-University Hospital a vital, philanthropically supported program through which specially trained Child Life Specialists help children and their families understand and cope with hospitalization.
It all started with a vision by Ron Marino, DO, Associate Chairman of Pediatrics at Winthrop, and an avid swimmer himself, who wanted to do something that would connect a healthy activity with giving back to the children and Hospital that he loves.
Jr. Committee Members
A special thank you to all of the members of the Swim-a-thon Committee for their exceptional work in helping to make the 2014 event such a success.
"We were embarking on the expansion of the pediatric floor and I wanted to involve the community in this healthy activity while at the same time help kids become conscious of philanthropy," recalled Dr. Marino.
So in 2002, Dr. Marino conceptualized the first Annual Swim-a-thon, an event where swimmers of all ages and skill levels come together at Hofstra University's Swim Center each spring to enjoy swimming laps while raising funds for a worthy cause.
Today, with the support of various Hospital Departments and members of the community, this highly anticipated annual event has garnered more than $290,000 to benefit the Child Life Program at Winthrop.
Along the way, numerous individuals have not only participated in this event, but have played a pivotal part in making it happen every year. From volunteers and committee members to staff members and young people, countless individuals have spent hours upon hours of their personal time to help the event grow even bigger and better each year.
One such individual is David Davani, a college student and musician, who first got involved with the Swim-a-thon after seeing a flyer for it while visiting Dr. Marino's office for his annual physical. It seemed like a fun event, so David, then age 10, decided to participate. He enjoyed the event so much that in the years to follow, he garnered support from his history teacher at North Shore Middle School, Tom Curtin, to establish a campaign to encourage other students to participate, which has continued ever since.
Each year, the Swim-a-thon is enhanced by an outpouring of support from community mambers who donate their time and services to make this a fun, family-centered event. Participants enjoy swim coaching by Joe Petrush from Total Immersion Swimming; massage therapy by Licensed Massage Therapist Denise Cook, RN; live music by the Mineola High School jazz band and Central Beat rock band; crafts provided by Cathy Grossfeld of All About Kids; and yoga by Donna Dragani.
Instrumental to the success of this year's event, which raised $44,000, was support from various sponsors including Saf-T-Swim Inc., who were active partners with Dr. Marino, promoting the event in their facilities and encouraging members of the community to register and donate. In addition, support from the Girl Scouts of Nassau County, Troop 1805, who not only participated in the event, but sold baked goods and donated all of proceeds to the Swim-a-thon, was deeply appreciated.
In addition to raising funds and participating in the day's event, David has used his musical talents to play the clarinet alongside his longtime music teacher, Paul Marino, and provide musical entertainment during the festivities. Furthermore, David assisted with the branding of this event, creating the infamous "Swimmy" logo and helping to spread word about the importance of participating in this fun-filled day through social media. His motivation for getting involved and staying involved with the Winthrop Swim-a-thon for so many years is simple: "It's all about the kids."
"The event is so important because it raises funds for a program that is an instrumental part of what makes the care at Winthrop so special," he said recently.
"The program needs support to keep going strong, and I'm just happy to be a part of something that helps kids who are going through a traumatic time."
It was a traumatic time in the lives of friends of Ryan and Conor McCarthy that prompted the two Garden City brothers to get involved with the event 10 years ago. Both had close friends who were being treated for leukemia at Winthrop and the brothers set out to do their parts to help them. With the help of their mom, Barbara, they began by knocking on friends' and neighbors' doors to raise funds for the Swim-a-thon, not fully realizing at that time just how impactful their actions would be. Today, the brothers have raised over $10,000 for the Child Life Program through their participation in the Swim-a-thon, which has become an annual family event.
"Swimming has always been a part of our lives and it's great that we could use it to raise money for pediatric healthcare services at Winthrop," said Ryan McCarthy recently.
A patient once herself, Ashley Nessler also understands firsthand just how pivotal those services are to enhancing the patient experience. A sufferer of asthma, she first became involved with the Swim-a-thon in the third grade to help improve her breathing techniques. However, about two years ago, she really gained an understanding of how meaningful this fundraising is when she was hospitalized at Winthrop.
"I had to have a CT scan and a person from the Child Life Program came in to explain the whole process to me beforehand to help alleviate any of my fears," said Ms. Nessler. "It was very comforting and made me feel good to have played a part in such a successful initiative."
Over the years, as Ashley's passion for swimming grew, so too did her love for giving back to Winthrop through the Swim-a-thon. Now, Ashley, a freshman in college, wants nothing more than for other young people to get involved.
"The event has been a big part of my life," she said. "I would encourage other young kids to get involved. It is one of the most important things they could ever do."
The next Swim-a-thon is set for March 15, 2015, at Hofstra University's Swim Center, which has graciously continued the tradition of providing the space and lifeguards for this event. For more information on how to get involved, call 1-866-WINTHROP.