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    20th September 2010

    Swim With Mike

    Last time I wrote, I mentioned that I have a scholarship that is paying for my tuition at Colorado State this year and promised to tell more about it. So here I am, back to tell you about the Swim With Mike Foundation!

    A little introduction from the Swim With Mike website:

    Established in 1981, the Swim was scheduled to be a one-time event organized by friends and teammates on behalf of Mike Nyeholt, a three time All-American swimmer, who was paralyzed from the chest down following a motorcycle accident suffered in January of 1981.

    Initially called Swim For Mike, the event was first held on March 7, 1981, to raise money to purchase a specially equipped van for Nyeholt. A week prior to the first Swim, Nyeholt was still in the hospital, and his supporters planned to show him a video of the fund-raiser once it was over.

    To everyone’s surprise, Nyeholt traveled by ambulance to make an appearance at the first event. More than $58,000 was raised that day, far exceeding the amount needed to purchase the van. At his suggestion, the excess funds were used to create the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund at the University of Southern California, the only one of its kind in the country.

    Inspired by the overwhelming support, Nyeholt promised to swim in the future to raise money for the other disabled athletes. He kept his promise and swam the following year, and with his participation in the pool, Swim For Mike was appropriately renamed Swim With Mike. Nyeholt now co-chairs the organizing committee for the annual event, which has raised $9.6 million and provided over 93 scholarships to Physically Challenged Athletes at 34 universities from Washington, DC to Honolulu, Hawaii.

    Obviously, I am a physically challenged athlete and have participated in sports both before and after I was injured six years ago…

    And since I was planning on going back to take some classes, I figured I was a perfect fit for the scholarship. I put together an application – a fairly involved process – and then interviewed on the phone with one of the scholarship board members…

    And then a few weeks later I found out that they had decided to accept me as one of the scholarship recipients!

    For those of you thinking that I would be a shoe in for this scholarship because I seem to have the qualifications and am a fairly motivated student, take a look at the page of biographic shorts for the recipients from last year. There are some people in much more challenging situations than I and they do much more impressive things. My friend Colin Heffern, a recent Colorado State grad himself, is a C2 quadriplegic but is now using the scholarship at USC working on a dual masters program in Architecture and Landscape Engineering (or something like that)! And there are many others doing undergrads or graduate degrees in science or engineering, students in law school… and then there are the slackers of the program – or maybe I’m the only slacker! – taking English classes and hoping to get a teaching credential.

    Part of being a Swim With Mike recipient means that the initial organizers get to pass part of the responsibility of perpetuating the scholarship fund on to me. In order for the scholarship to continue so other physically challenged athletes can benefit from it in the future, we have to help with the process of keeping the fund full and growing. In some ways, the other recipients and I are living advertising for the the Swim With Mike Foundation!

    I’m not about to push you to make a donation right now – though you certainly could do so by clicking here – but I am warning you ahead of time that I might be thinking of a fundraising idea or two this year. I might even try to do the Swim-A-Thon next spring out in L.A.

    The other thing that we as recipients are encouraged to do is to help spread the word to people who might benefit from the scholarship for physically challenged athletes… so here it goes: If you or someone you know are a physically challenged athlete or an athlete who has since become physically challenged and you (or the person you know) are a post-secondary student – or are planning on becoming a post-secondary student – check out!

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    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.