OCEAN CITY – Although the Worcester SWIM Fund is just starting to get its feet on the ground, organizers are hoping to immediately help fund existing swimming programs in the area through local donations.
Worcester SWIM (Safe Waters In Maryland) Fund, a donor advised fund of the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, was recently established by eight local families.
“The eight families have all swum for the Ocean Pines Swim Team, or the Stephen Decatur Swim Team, and it has been a great activity for families,” David Blazer of SWIM said. “We all got together and thought there is there something that we can do to help enhance swimming in the community.”
The fund advisors, or founding members, include the Adelhart, Blazer, Carroll, Foelber, Irwin, Sullivan, Vander Clute and Woliniski families.
“We are not only unique in our mission but in our structure,” Blazer said. “We are collaborating with the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore and they manage our funds. So all the money that we raise gets used for its intended purposes, nobody gets paid … we don’t have any costs.”
The group has outlined three missions to accomplish.
The first is to offer financial aid for children to take “learn to swim” classes.
Blazer recalled the drowning of a teenager in Milford, Del. only a short time ago. The accident happened the same time the families were forming the Worcester SWIM Fund.
“That is not supposed to happen on the Eastern Shore,” Blazer said. “We have all this water around us and we said ‘we have got to help these kids learn how to swim’. So that is one of our main objectives is that we are going to start ‘learn to swim’ programs.”
SWIM is currently working the Lower Shore YMCA in Pocomoke and the Worcester County Recreation and Parks by subsidizing the facilities’ current swimming programs.
“Not just subsidize but really help these programs to help the kids,” Blazer said. “No kid on the Eastern Shore should drown, so let’s get some basic swimming skills for everybody.”
SWIM’s second mission is to offer grants to local swimming pools and organizations to assist with competitive and recreational swimming programs.
Blazer said Stephen Decatur’s swim team was established five years ago and is currently the only lower shore swim team. The group has approached Snow Hill and Pocomoke High schools in hopes of having them establish swim teams as well.
“We have done it so we can offer advice on the process and what you need to do, but we have also been fundraising and we can help with some of those initial costs that it takes to get those teams up off the ground,” Blazer said.
SWIM’s third mission is to offer scholarships to incoming college freshmen who have exhibited positive sportsmanship and promoted the sport of swimming. To date, the Worcester SWIM Fund has given $500 college scholarships to two 2011 graduating seniors in Worcester County and expects to do the same for two 2012 graduating seniors.
“A lot of teenagers start dropping out of sports and we wanted an incentive to stick with swimming,” Blazer said.
Currently, most of the Worcester SWIM Fund efforts are mainly focused on the “learn to swim” programs. The Worcester County Recreation and parks Department offers summer swimming lessons that have room for 300 kids to sign up. Last year, the program gained 210 students. Therefore, the goal is to enhance that number as well as provide transportation for students in need and help with costs.
“One of the problems we have identified is we don’t have enough certified teachers to teach swimming lessons in the lower shore,” Blazer said. If we can help teachers get their certification and keep it, it is going to become more successful.”
Worcester SWIM Fund’s first official fundraiser, the annual Seabreeze 10K and 1-Mile Run, will be held on Saturday, May 12, starting at 9 a.m. at Public Landing on the Chincoteague Bay.
Register online at www.active.com for $30, before May 9. For more information, visit www.swimworcester.org, or contact Blazer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-726-2235. All proceeds benefit the Worcester Swim Fund.
“We are hoping to get a couple hundred people to come down to do the 10K race,” Blazer said. “It will be a nice festival.”