24-Hour Swim-A-Thon

The campers started off the “Laps of Love” by swimming from 9 a.m. till noon and again from 1 p.m. till 3 p.m., while our CITs (Counselors In Training) covered the lunch hour. The oldest group of counselors took the shift from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., while our staff prepared dinner for those who were planning on sleeping over and swimming throughout the night. From 6 p.m. through midnight, both staff and campers took turns in the pool. At midnight it was lights out for our campers, who by then, were more than ready for a little R and R!

During the midnight to 6 a.m. shift, members of the staff and community supported each other, both in and out of the pool. With a bit of encouragement, many of our sleepover guests were back in the pool at 6 a.m. and took turns swimming laps until 9 a.m. The twenty-four-hour cycle was complete, and we managed to raise $2,500. Although the campers and staff were tired the following day, the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction was powerful.

Still Going Strong

Throughout the remainder of the summer, the staff and campers proudly wore their Camp Or Hashemesh “Laps of Love “t-shirts, which were given to all the participants in the swim-a-thon by the Florida Chapter of the Children’s Heart Foundation. The buzz did not subside, and I was amazed at how often I was approached with comments such as, “Next year I’m going to swim twice as many laps!” Our participants were not the only ones impressed with this effort. The Coca Cola Corporation, as a part of its Days of Caring & Sharing Program, awarded us a grant to help operate the 2006 Camp Or Hashemesh “Laps of Love “ Swim-A-Thon. With that financial and moral support, we were able to publicize the event more, and as a result, the community was much more active, and the media also got involved.

The 2006 fundraising version proved to be an even more powerful experience for everyone involved. From the beginning of the camp season, our aquatic staff began inspiring the campers to get motivated during their instructional and lap swims. Our arts and crafts specialist dedicated time in her program to allow the campers an opportunity to make hearts of all sizes and shapes that would be put up around the entire camp, especially around the pool. The response was truly incredible. The effort was both heartwarming and productive. Our campers swam with passion and purpose, and the community responded with generosity. Several of the local television stations sent crews to cover the event, as did reporters from local newspapers.

We followed the same format as with the 2005 swim-a-thon, but the results were quite different. The 2006 Camp Or Hashemesh “Laps of Love Swim-A-Thon” raised $5,000 for the Florida Chapter of the Children’s Heart Foundation, with twice as many laps being swum and many, many more community members participating.

The experience left me feeling thrilled. Our camp is filled with many wonderful traditions that both campers and staff look forward to every year. Clearly, the twenty-four hour swim-a-thon fundraiser has now become one of those very special events. I am so impressed with the way in which both our staff and campers have responded to this cause. The lesson they are learning about the power of giving back to the community and making a difference in the lives of those in need is so important. The fact that this is all done while everyone has so much fun and, in the process, develops strong bonds and a sense of teamwork, makes it all the more satisfying. Furthermore, the point cannot be overlooked that while our campers are preparing for this effort in the pool, they are improving their own physical, emotional and recreational fitness.

I know that after participating in an event such as this, everyone involved is more appreciative of how precious their health is and how fortunate they are to be healthy enough to contribute to such a worthy cause. Hopefully, in years to come, Camp Or Hashemesh will need to find a different cause for our camp to rally around because children’s heart defects and disease will disappear. Nonetheless, we will continue to strive to keep teaching our campers the value of giving back to the community!

Jeff Krieger is the Director of Camp Or Hashemesh, Clearwater, Fla. He can be reached via email at campathleticgmkjc@verizon.net.

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