Katie Grealish loves to swim and even though most of her family doesn't share her passion, she knows her cousin does.
"He cannot walk or talk, but when he is in the water, he's smiling, he's happy, he's free," she said. "I love seeing him happy. Even though he can't talk, I know he loves me and I know that he would do anything for me."
Now, her cousin Daniel who has cerebral palsy immediately gets his bathing suit when he first sees Grealish when she visits him in New York.
"We share a special bond so when we are together we go to the pool together," she said.
Grealish, a sophomore at South Lakes' International Baccalaureate program, wanted to raise awareness of cerebral palsy for her Middle Years Program.
"Many people think it is a disease, however it is actually a condition typically caused by damage to the brain before or at birth. It is a life-long condition, and is one of the most common congenital disorders of childhood," she writes about cerebral palsy.
To raise awareness and raise money for United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), the year-round swimmer with the Potomac Marlins Swim Club organized a swim-a-thon she called 'Dollars for Daniel" on March 7.
"Dollars for Daniel" took place at Central Park Aquatic Center which donated its Manassas pool for the event.
"I like organizing things. I love swimming, Daniel loves swimming, and I thought it would a great honor to him," she said.
More than 30 swimmers from the Potomac Marlins and South Lakes participated Saturday, March 7.
"The outcome was amazing," she said. "People came out to show their support and learn about this condition. We collectively raised over $3,300 which was $2,300 over my initial goal."
UCP sent a representative to participate in the event and hand out information to educate people about cerebral palsy, she said.
"I just really want to thank all those who participated either through swimming or donations to make this project such a success and hope that the money raised can be used to make Daniel's life, as well as others fighting this condition, just a little bit easier," said Grealish.
"Donations are still coming in today," she said.
Grealish didn't always love the water. "When I was little, I was at my summer pool. I hated the pool until I was four. I got pushed in and started floating and realized, ‘This wasn't so bad,'" she said.
She loves watching world-record holder Kathleen Ledecky swim and saw her compete at a state championship meet. Ledecky, of Bethesda, Md., turns 18 on St. Patrick's Day.
"Watching her glide through the water inspired me. She makes it look so easy," said Grealish.
Grealish's favorite stroke is backstroke. "I like the idea that I get to breathe the whole time," she said.
— Ken Moore