Swimming for Soldiers Swim-A-Thon builds buzz for March 15 event


Near the beginning of the swimming and diving season, SUNY Potsdam assistant swim coach Brittany Berrus came to the team and became an advocate to push for more charity work to be done.

Meaghan Cunningham, the new diving coach of the team, had mentioned that she had experience in helping raise monies for cancer research in a swim for charity type event.

Berrus had a name picked out as the Swimming for Soldiers Swim-A-Thon and a logo as well to start a jumping off point.

It was then left up to the student-athletes to see who would take the charge as organizers of the event.

Juniors Dan Costa (Spencerport, N.Y. / Spencerport) and Emily Kanoza (Syracuse, N.Y. / West Genesee) were Athletic Leadership Council (ALC) representatives for the men's and women's swim teams and took the reigns for the event.   

Berrus continued her research and came across the SUNY Potsdam Operation Military Support Group, a local on-campus group that takes in donations and sends out care packages to soldiers that are overseas serving their country. 

Costa and Kanoza presented it in front of an athletic department meeting last Wednesday and then again presented it in an ALC meeting on Monday, February 24.

"The biggest way that we can help is to raise money," said Costa, whose grandpa served in World War II.  "We introduced it to the ALC and did a lot of planning during winterim when it really started to come together.  Through spitball ideas, we wrote a proposal."

And, so, the Swimming for Soldiers Swim-a-thon was born as a non-competitive swimming event where each dollar amount raised equals a length of time athletes swim relay style with their teams.

It will be held Saturday, March 15, at Maxcy Hall Pool from 12-2 p.m.

"Both my grandfathers served in the military," Kanoza said.  "We just felt that this was a great cause considering that we're on the ALC and they decided this year that they were going to show military recognition and get community service based around it.  Our assistant coach put this idea into motion."

On the day of the event, money will be tallied and the length of time swam will be determined by this criteria: $500 to swim for 20 minutes, $1,000 to swim for 40 minutes or $1,500 to swim for an hour.

The goal to reach has been set at $1,500.

All proceeds will go to the SUNY Potsdam Operation Military Support (OMS) Group, who create care packages for soldiers overseas.

Within the care package may include practical items such as hygiene products, magazines, non-perishable foods like beef jerky and other keepsakes that would remind soldiers of home.

The last care package was set to South Korea.  The packages are specifically targeted for those military personnel who attended Potsdam-area schools or those who had a connection to the area.

Hoping to spawn a next group of leaders, Costa and Kanoza are thinking this could potentially turn into a tradition for the swim team to get behind the SUNY Potsdam Operation Military Support Group.

"We're trying to test the waters with it being the first year being done," Kanoza said.  "I feel like if the team can continue this for years to come, it could be a great event and a lot of people will want to become a part of it." 

Through the ALC, events such as an end-of-the-year banquet for its student-athletes and community service such as raking leaves for area residents have strengthened relations between SUNY Potsdam athletic teams.

Costa and Kanoza felt the Swim-A-Thon would be an excellent way to bolster Potsdam school spirit and unity together in one place under one roof.

The Potsdam swimming and diving teams have multiple ties to the military.  Brothers, cousins and fathers of swimmers are active members of the military.  Another swimmer is a part of ROTC.  And, a diver on the team has a dad who just recently served a tour.

A point of emphasis has been made that the funds generated go to a local source.

"It's been received pretty well," Costa said.  "People have told us that they like this idea and like what we are doing if we could pull this off, but people wanted to see it impact local people.  If they know it's helping somebody from Potsdam, it could make a major impact on whether they choose to donate."

Another important push has come from the ALC. 

"I feel like if we did it alone that it wouldn't have come together," Kanoza said. "We're getting a lot of support. ALC-planned events help bring the athletic teams together.  As we get closer, we'll feel the pressure. But we are excited to get it out."

Freshman Chris Halsey (Mexico, N.Y. / Mexico), who competes in the freestyle and individual medley, has already asked about the event and has said that he liked how Costa and Kanoza have put the work in place.

Outside of the swim team, it has begun to draw some positive feedback.  People such as SUNY Potsdam assistant athletic director Bill Mitchell and women's lacrosse coach Lauren Bruce have been shown their enthusiasm and have expressed interest in participating and that they are looking forward to the events.

For others, it's an opportunity to try something new or a way to build further camaraderie among classmates for Bears school pride.

Locally among businesses, The Bagelry, Little Italy and Hot Tamale's have also followed suit by participating in the cause for putting up coin jars to accept donations.  That's been ongoing since the middle of February and will continue in the lead up to the event.   

C.J.'s  is also collecting cans and bottles to aid in the cause.

On event day, the Color Guard will be present. Teams will be broken into groups and will swim relay style 50's (two laps), until the next group is called.  A member of each team is to be in the water at all time.  Tubes will be provided, water games will take place in the diving well, and free t-shirt raffles will be drawn. 

"Maxcy Hall is a great venue and it gets used during swim meets," Kanoza said. "But, I don't think it's been taken into consideration under any other time.  So if we can bring people in and they see what we do here, I think they would be likely to come back."

How can I help?

Each athlete will receive a pledge sheet to ask for donations.  The incentive is that the top 10 athletes who raise the most money will receive a free Swimming for Soldiers T-shirt.
Coin jars – Jars have been placed at local businesses (Hot Tamale's, the Bagelry and Little Italy) asking for community support to donate spare change
Can & bottles – An account is set up at CJ's under "Swimming for Soldiers."  From now until March 13, donate all cans and bottles to the account.

Who to contact?

ALC members:
Dan Costa: Event Coordinator (costads195@potsdam.edu)
Emily Kanoza: Event Coordinator (kanozaej195@potsdam.edu)