Walker's Swim Team completed over 41 miles in one hour during one of their afternoon practices in February and raised more than $4,000 for The Edward J. Madden Open Hearts Camp as the designated charity.
Twenty athletes swam 100 laps or more, and many of them didn't stop even one time during the hour-long event.
The senior captains, Izzy O'Donnell '20, Jane Li '20, and Emmy Vitali '20 made an announcement at Morning Meeting to explain the event to the community, and then began collecting their pledged donations from faculty, staff, friends and family members. The planning of the event had started early in the season; the swimmers took time to research and present potential charities to the team. Later, the team voted and decided on the Edward J. Madden Open Hearts camp, a charity near and dear to captain Izzy.
Walker's swimmers spent a couple of weeks collecting pledges. The girls collected anywhere from a penny a lap to more than a dollar per lap; they also accepted flat donations.
Senior first-year member of the swim team, Hayley Bravin '20, raised the most on the team. She was diligent about promoting the event and collecting pledges, which totalled 55 by the end of her outreach and of which she collected 100%. Hayley, in a collaborative effort with injured teammate Abby Grimaldi '21, reached out to teachers, staff and administrators, friends, and family members, bringing in checks that totalled more than $700. Hayley said, "Abby and I would meet up during our free blocks to walk to different places on campus to ask for people's support. It was not only having people pledge for me that felt important, but it was also sharing why we were doing it— we were doing this because as a team we had decided to support an organization that has and continues to impact Izzy's life."
The plan was to present the check to David Zaleon, Executive Director of Open Hearts after spring break, but the pandemic had other plans; the team felt it important to get the money into the hands of the organization sooner rather than later. The team sent a letter with the checks totalling over $4,000.
Izzy spoke at the team's virtual banquet, saying "Bringing a trophy home from the NEPSAC Division III championship was a highlight of the season, but the swimathon is also something I will never forget. It meant so much to me that my team put in so much time and effort outside of the pool for this mission." Izzy doesn't keep her story a secret, and her idea to present this charity to the team was not a surprise to many. She said, "This camp changed my life in so many ways and I'm so grateful for all the lives that our donation will also affect in numerous ways."
Junior Daphne Peterson '21, in her first season at Walker's, was one of the swimmers that didn't grab onto the gutter even one time. An All-NEPSAC and The Grace Robertson Award winner, distance swimmer Daphne even wanted her splits at every 100, only pausing her tempo to hear the time before pushing off again. Of all the distance sets she has completed in her 10 years of training, she had never had an experience similar to this. She finished the event with 203 laps, over three miles.
"There was something about swimming for myself, my team, the people who had pledged, and the Open Hearts Camp that made this experience unique and special," said Hayley. "When my goggles were giving me problems part way through the swim, I knew I couldn't stop because this was bigger than me. I jumped into the pool knowing that every lap I swam would end up giving more than $6 to Camp and you bet I was going to swim the whole hour."
"The overall experience was more than I thought it would be," she said. "We had the support of the students in Personal Fitness who counted for us, and it was a great feeling to know there were people cheering us on even if they couldn't be on the deck because they had pledged. Doing good with your team, coaches, and supporters by your side is a feeling like no other and something we will cherish forever."
As of May 8, the Wildcats brought in a total of $4,047.48. Walker's underclassmen are looking forward to a visit next winter from The J. Madden Open Hearts Camp, where the entire school will benefit from a presentation about how the donated funds were allocated.
Total Laps Per Swimmer:
(132 laps equals 2 miles, 198 is 3 miles)
Daphne Peterson '21 - 203
Natalie Stewart '23 - 180
Alexia Grech '23 -158
Charlotte Furia '25 -154
Lucia Morales '25 - 148
Allison Wall '22 - 149
Ana Hunt '22 - 144
Izzy O'Donnell '20 - 144
Jane Li '20 - 138
Emmy Vitali '21 -136
Sophia Botero '21 - 138
Liyan Du '23 - 132
Molly Thacker '24 - 126
Asha Haug '22 - 125
Hayley Bravin '20 -120
Katherine Tang '22 - 118
Lucy Oneglia '25 - 117
Cristina CerezoFransitorra '22 - 107
Claire Shemo '21 -103
Sophie Lawry '25 - 100