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Masters Swimmers Help Age-groupers Swim for Food

As swimmers, we think we know hunger. We stumble home after practice, open the refrigerator and indulge in any and everything we can get our hands on to satisfy the hunger created by a tough workout. However in many of our communities, there are people who are truly hungry. Anne Clewell of the Berkley Aquatics Club in New Jersey, helps youth swimmers in her local community understand this by educating them about community food banks and their efforts to help feed truly hungry people.

Three years ago Clewell started talking with fellow Masters swimmers and local coaches about using swimming to help raise money and collect food for the local food banks. With a little encouragement and a lot of networking, Clewell set up a food collection bin at a local youth summer league championship meet. This launched Swim for Food, which is growing to communities nearby as Masters swimmers spread the word.

“I couldn’t have done any of this without help, support and networking opportunities through Masters swimming. It really is a collective effort. I talk to one Masters swimmer, who knows another coach, who knows a parent, and suddenly I am collecting thousands of pounds of food for the local food banks.” The power of networking and Masters swimmers joining together is second to none.

What is Swim for Food?

Swim for Food is a non-profit organization that works in conjunction with local age group and summer league swim meets to collect food. Teams often challenge one another to see which team can collect the greatest amount of food. The healthy competition between teams not only provides extra motivation for young swimmers to get involved, but also typically results in large total donations.

Clewell and her team of volunteers, whose goal is to “swim fast and feed many,” set up collection boxes for each team participating, conduct the official weigh-in of the food, and arrange for local food banks to pick-up it up. They also award one team the victory of the most food collected. Most importantly, the Swim for Food champions create enthusiasm around the idea of being contributing members of the community. T-shirts, stickers and a little friendly competition is the perfect recipe for collective helpfulness and community spirit.

Swim for Food has grown over the last three years. “We started out with one summer league championship meet and we have grown since then. We now collaborate with six different championship meets throughout the year. We have also designated both youth and Masters practices to collecting food.”

“We have certainly learned a lot over the last few years,” shares Clewell. “We now have a system in place for promotions, finding a good fit between the events and local food banks, and the operations of the competition. We’ll continue to learn, but we feel confident about growing” she says. Clewell hopes to see Swim for Food continue to grow and is ready for the challenge of crossing state borders to assist other youth and Masters programs in feeding the hungry. “Masters swimmers are the key,” she says. The number of connections, networks and relationships built through Masters swimming allows all of us to feel a part of a bigger community. I hope to use the communities of which I am a part of to grow our effort of feeding the hungry,” she adds.

Many Masters swimmers network for encouragement and support. We call, email, text and Facebook one another. We share pictures, stories and experiences. Clewell has implemented a vision with the support she has received from fellow Masters swimmers. “It is amazing how powerful these connections can be,” she says. “It wouldn’t have been possible without them.”

For more information about Swim for Food or for information on how you can bring Swim for Food to your Masters program, visit swimforfood.org or contact Anne Clewell directly at anne.clewell@roche.com.

 

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