YMCA Forster Swimathon

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It’s on again! YMCA’s annual SwimAbility Fundraiser – the YMCA Swimathon – will be held on the first Sunday in March. Sharon Bourke, Aquatic Program Coordinator at Great Lakes YMCA, tells us more … 

Hi Sharon. Please introduce yourself and describe your role at YMCA Forster …

My name is Sharon Bourke, and I am the Aquatic Program Coordinator at Great Lakes YMCA. This means I coordinate the swimming lessons and junior swim squad and our annual SwimAbility fundraiser, the YMCA Swimathon.

The Swimathon is on again this month. How long have you been running the event for?

This will be our fifth Swimathon. Each year on the first Sunday of March, YMCAs across Australia take part in the YMCA Swimathon – a national fundraising event where people come together and swim laps to raise money, all in the name of supporting people with disabilities and limited mobility to learn to swim and enjoy the water safely.

This is why we Splash Out! So more people in communities like ours across Australia can to learn how fun it is to swim and enjoy water safely. While the YMCA Swimathon is a national event, all funds raised locally are invested locally, on local people.

What is the aim of the event, and do you have a financial target to reach each year?

It’s simple; we want to support more people with disabilities in our community to learn to swim and be safe around water. Why? Because we believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience how fun it is to swim and learn this vital life skill.

Most Aussies learn to swim through school swimming lessons, with many learning this vital skill before they even hit primary school. But not everyone gets the chance to learn to swim. People with disabilities often require specially qualified swimming instructors or accessible facilities.

Our target for this year is $12,500.

How are funds raised used to help the local community?

Firstly, the funds are used to provide one on one lessons for children in our local community throughout the year. The funds have also been spent on upskilling swimming teachers and buying equipment.

What events take place during the course of the Swimathon; what do participants need to do to be involved?

In the morning on the day we have an opening ceremony, morning tea, SwimAbility families swimming, medal presentations, raffle, colouring in and guessing competition, winners announced, and also a range of events from an inflatables relay race, team relay challenge, lap swimming, presentations, sausage sizzle, face painting and a pool party in the afternoon.

To get involved, you can register online at www.ymcaswimathon.org.au – come along on the day and join in.

How has the Swimathon gone in previous years?

Last year was our most successful; with lots of hard work, we raised an amazing $15,000. We had great support and participation from a wide of people and businesses in our community, and also of course from our SwimAbility families. We are looking forward to this year’s event being even bigger and better.

What specific examples can you give us about those that have benefited from this event?

Jack Fitzhardinge is 12 years old, and he has just started high school. Jack has Autism and has always loved the water, but not always pools.

A few words from Heather and Dave Fitzhardinge – Jack’s parents:

“After school swimming lessons in Year 2, Jack started private lessons as part of the YMCA’s SwimAbility program. His teacher, Sharon Bourke, has been amazing. When Sharon struggled to get him to listen, she contacted his school teacher to ask for advice, and she is super patient and understanding with him.

“Jack now loves pools (any water, really) and is very confident in the water. It is his happy place, as he always calms down when swimming. Learning to swim has been a game changer for Jack.

“In his last year of primary school, Jack competed in the school’s swimming carnival. He swam in the 50 m events for Freestyle, Backstroke and Breaststroke. Thanks so much for all your amazing patience in teaching Jack! Thanks also for your support and enthusiasm at the carnival; Jack hasn’t stopped talking about it. We never thought he would be able to go in a carnival.”

The Fitzhardinge family can now go to the beach and know Jack is safe and confident in the ocean. Jack has even had a few surfing lessons, and absolutely loves it!

Living in Forster and being surrounded by water, it is essential that Jack is confident in the water, and he is because of SwimAbility. Jack often swims in the channel all the way to the island on the other side, and his family is confident he will be safe.

How do people register, and where can they find out more information?

To find out more and to get involved, go to ymcaswimathon.org.au or call 6555 4617.

Thanks Sharon.

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