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Swimming and Caring

Burke Centre Swim Club swims for charity in annual swim-a-thon

The Burke Centre Swim Club can rest easily this week after swimming nearly 13,000 laps for charity, Saturday, July 7.

The charity was not just a name and a cause, however: the Burke swimmers knew exactly what, and who, they were raising their money for. Katrina Nelson, a Burke swimmer who died of cancer in late 2004, was the star of the event. Katrina’s memory motivated children to stay strong in the water, just as she would have been.

Swimmers donated their earnings to two charities: Caringbridge and Burke Cares. Caringbridge, a Web site designed to allow open communication between sick children and their families and friends, helped Katrina stay connected to those she loved, said her father, Mark Nelson. Family and friends can sign a guestbook on the site, communicating their support to the family going through so much. Every $50 raised, he said, provides a Web site to a family.

"We used the Caringbridge site to keep all of [Katrina’s] friends and family informed on what was going on," said Mark Nelson. "It’s really a wonderful cause."

MARK NELSON remembers when Katrina swam in the Burke Centre Swim Club swim-a-thon. She convinced him to donate $0.50 per lap, he remembers. Little did he know she’d swim more than 100 laps.

"She loved the swim team, and this was one of her favorite events," he said.

Mark Nelson swims in the swim-a-thon every year to honor his daughter. A picture from the last swim-a-thon Katrina swam in is the main picture on her Caringbridge Web site. Last year, Mark Nelson swam 200 laps, but this year he shattered that personal record with 250 laps.

"Whether they swam 27 laps or 307 laps, each of those swimmers knew they were making a contribution to something bigger than they are," said Deana Hally, the swim-a-thon’s organizer this year.

In addition to Caringbridge, swim-a-thon money is also donated to Burke Cares, an organization that helps Burke Centre families in need. From things like pool memberships and household items, Burke Cares is as local as it gets, said Hally.

"This money is going right back to the community," she said.

Hally told the swimmers to remember those who don’t have a lot, and to know that those in need appreciate what they’re doing.

"We are so grateful that you guys are raising all of this money," said Hally. "Last year, Burke Cares was able to provide five families with pool memberships."

Luanne Smith, a Burke Centre Board of Trustees’ member, said it’s easy for people to forget that wealth is not evenly distributed in Burke Centre, and throughout the region. She told the swimmers it’s important to help others in need, which is exactly what they were doing.

"With all of these nice pools, there’ s a belief that everyone can afford them, but not everyone can," she said.

While food, games, prizes and smiles made the swim-a-thon event somewhat of a party and celebration, Swim Coach Coulter Weaver wanted the swimmers to remember that it wasn’t all about them.

"Tonight is about others who are less fortunate, for one reason or another," he said.

"It truly is more than just about a swim-a-thon," said Hally. "We can make a difference in this world, one lap at a time."