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Cobias Reel in Fundraiser

Swim-a-Thon benefits Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia.

The Cobias made a splash in the effort to raise awareness and funds for Down syndrome.

The Cottontail Swim Club recently held a Swim-a-Thon in order to raise money for the Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia. The different age groups of swimmers, which ranged from 7 to 18, took turns swimming as many laps as they could in 45-minute intervals. The Minis, which are the 4- to 6-year-old swimmers, swam in the shorter section of the pool.

Each swimmer has a sponsor who pays a fixed amount for every lap swum. Parent volunteers watch the children as they swim to count laps. Last year, the team, which has about 240 members, swam 8,000 laps. That is the equivalent of swimming to Kings Dominion. This year, the swim team, which is the leader in point standings in Division 10 in the Northern Virginia Swimming League, hopes to shatter that record.

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The Cobias swim hard during their Down syndrome fundraiser.

“It gives everyone a cause,” said Swim-a-Thon organizer Catherine Beck.

The team dives into the Swim-a-Thon with the same enthusiasm every year. The fundraiser, which has been going for as long as any of the adult leaders can remember, always helps a charitable foundation. In previous years, the event has aided The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Nothing but Nets Campaign.

This is the second year in a row DSANV has been the beneficiary. Last year, the Swim-a-Thon raised over $8,000 for the foundation. This event is one of the few major fundraisers DSANV takes part in every year.

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Assistant coach and swim team member Connor Knowles perches in the lifeguard stand during the event.

“The best part is that it raises awareness for our organization,” said Maureen Buckley of DSANV. “Unlike other fundraisers, this [involves] people outside the organization, which is great.”

Although the swim team enjoys raising money for the foundation as a whole, they also have a personal tie to the team. One member of the swim club has Down syndrome, and her teammates swim hard to show appreciation and respect for her. They are invested in her well being and the welfare of all those with similar disabilities.

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Nick Masterson, one of the swim team’s two head coaches, gives the Minis some direction.

“It’s all about inclusion. It hits home,” said Team Representative Laura Travan. “It’s nice to see she’s part of the team, disability or not.”

Connor MacKinnon, who is in his first year as an assistant coach, swam for Cottontail Pool for 12 years. He remembers trying to beat everyone else with the laps when he took part in the Swim-a-Thon. Now, MacKinnon is in charge of music during the event to keep the kids excited.

“I also like cheering on the kids. They’re swimming to find a cure. It’s just fun to watch them,” said MacKinnon.

Another coach who loves seeing the children reach their goals in the Swim-a-Thon is Connor Knowles. Knowles is both an assistant coach and a member of the 15-18 swim group, so he gets to participate in the event from two angles. Although he plays two roles, he does not mind the responsibilities that both entail. He also loves the enthusiasm the children bring to the event.

“It’s not tough. It just makes it more interesting,” said Knowles. “When [the children] realize what they’re doing this for, everyone shows up.”