Swim For Freedom
by Laura S. Jones, Staff Writer for US Masters Swimming
On August 8th, 2010 several Masters swimmers participated in the 2nd Annual Swim For Freedom in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The swim was an eight mile single lap of the lake; swimmers had the option of doing shorter distances if they wished which allowed people “of any skill level to participate,” explained Steve Whowell, 33, the race’s founder who swims for Wisconsin Masters.
There were a total of 30 swimmers, more than double the number from the year before. In addition to Masters swimmers, age group and college swimmers participated. The water temperature was pleasant – in the high 70s – but “we did have brutal weather including wind and rain, so a lot of people probably swam more [than eight miles] to avoid the wind,” explains Whowell.
Whowell thought about creating the swim for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation because his father was in the Navy and Whowell himself considered becoming a Navy Seal himself but focused on swimming instead. “Then the real motivation came when a friend of mine sent me an email about another athlete doing long distances races for this foundation. Their role in the military is so necessary these days and the danger is so high, I just wanted to do something for them. So I reached out to the swim community and people I know. It’s been fun, it’s for a great cause and Lake Geneva is a beautiful lake. What’s it’s all about is raising money.”
The swim raised just over $14,000, more than double the amount raised in its first year. Fundraising was done on a per mile basis.
Charles Lorenz, 35, was the top male swimmer and the top fundraiser; he finished in 3:20 and raised over $3,000. Melodee Nugent, 43, was the fastest female swimmer in 3:58. Other USMS members completing the race were Jason Clark, 31, Erica Bergstrom, 23, Kiki Day, 59, Peg Schmidt, 51, and Kimberly Fitzgerald, 50. All swim for Wisconsin Masters. Dan Projansky, 52, swims for Illinois Masters and was the winner in the butterfly category – and the only entrant. His time for the approximately 13,000-meter race was 8:20. According to Whowell, Projansky had been training all summer for his feat.
With a lot of work and a great idea, Whowell was able to provide a premier athletic experience for participants and fulfill his charitable ambitions. That’s multi-tasking in the 21st century.