Independence Day, 2012
On Saturday, July 14, 2012 I plan to participate in the 21st Annual Maryland Swim for Life event outside Chestertown in the Chester River off of Rolph’s Wharf by green can buoy #35. I hope to swim in the 3 mile wave and am collecting pledges to support HIV organizations and the Chester River Association.
This event came about as a result of my graduating to open water swimmer after taking up pool swimming as an exercise to deal with stress related to the AIDS crisis. I had been in a Chesapeake Bay swim between the two bridges from Sandy Point to Kent Island and had found myself curious about how Fletcher Hanks had organized it. The details and logistics fascinated me; but I did not enjoy the edgy macho competitive part.
While on a bus trip up to Provincetown that August, I saw signs posted for a “Swim for Life” in September which was raising funds for People with AIDS. Back in Baltimore, I began going around asking everyone I knew to contribute to my going up to swim in this exciting event. This September will mark the 22nd time I do that swim. After the first experience I vowed to myself to come home and organize a Maryland event like that.
With a small group of volunteers we pulled off the first Maryland Swim for Life for People With AIDS at the Hammerman Area of Gunpowder Falls State Park where the river is two miles wide and close to flowing into the Chesapeake Bay. The water is also controlled by the U.S. Army’s Edgewood Arsenal and Aberdeen Proving Grounds. This was long before “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” replaced the ban on gays in the military and the Army resisted providing the required permit for the event; but they eventually were persuaded to allow us to swim after very sustained and significant political intervention.
In the years to follow, the Army often sent a representative to stand on the stage at the benefit swim, often next to the members of the Gay and Lesbian Veterans organization who volunteered at the event. There were always elements of art, culture, music and celebration at each swim and the event provided a venue for participants that was qualitatively different from the usual athletic event.
I was proud to help shape and steer the swim for ten years before turning the role of coordinator over to the District of Columbia Aquatics Club. Before that happened, though, we moved the swim to the Eastern Shore. The new location allowed us to expand the swim to include 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 mile waves. Turning the reigns over to DCAC has allowed me to simply swim and raise funds.
If you would like to make a pledge to my swim this year, you can do it online!
Donate Now! http://goo.gl/TAoSx