The Swim-A-Thon That's Helping Athletes With Disabilities Go to College
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Transitioning from high school to college is no easy task but, for students with physical disabilities, the switch can be even more difficult. For 35 years, the Swim with Mike organization has helped athletes with physical challenges go to college. Inspired by Mike Nyeholt, an NCAA college swimmer who broke his neck in a motorcycle accident, this event has grown to include more than 85 schools and 178 scholarship recipients. But Swim with Mike is more than an annual event; it’s a community of college athletes and alumni.
“Without Swim with Mike, I would have never gone to USC. It really jump-started my career,” Daryl Holmlund, a 2011-2012 scholarship recipient, told The Mighty. “As a person with disabilities, you have lots of other expenses to deal with so I never could have done it without Swim with Mike.” Holmlund is now a teacher at the Conservation Corps of Long Beach and swam 3500 meters for the event.
The 35th Annual Swim with Mike event was held at the University of California’s Uytengsu Aquatics Center, Saturday April 11. The swim-a-thon raises funds for students with disabilities to attend college.
Sharon Lee attends the University of La Verne in La Verne, California and told The Mighty Swim with Mike gave her the ability to pursue her dream. She studies biology with a pre-med concentration and plans to attend medical school. “This wouldn’t have been possible without Swim with Mike,” Lee said.
Spencer Fox is a freshman studying chemical engineering at the University of Southern California and current recipient. “It’s pretty overwhelming for some people with a disability to come to a big school but Swim with Mike provides the framework for us to succeed,” he told The Mighty. He and his sister, Ruby Fox, have been involved with Swim with Mike in San Diego for the past 2 years.
Swim with Mike involves the entire community. Dick Hunsaker, the grandfather of a recipient, has been supporting Swim with Mike for the past 10 years. “It’s great,” he said. “Seeing the smile son these students faces really warms your heart.”
Sarah Reinertsen, former recipient told The Mighty, “I’m still living the dream as an athlete.” Not only is she the first woman with a prosthetic leg to complete the Hawaii Ironman, but she’s training for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. She’s been an active member of the Swim with Mike community and continues to attend swim-a-thon events. “It’s important to always give back,” she said. “People can become disabled at any time, what empowers us is education. It empowers us to have an independent and successful life and, together, we can lift each other up.”
Swim with Mike has raised more than $15 million dollars in scholarships. For more information and to find the swim-a-thon a you, visit the Swim with Mike website.
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Originally published: April 15, 2015