Members of the Ithaca College club swim team partnered up with members of Ithaca College Autism Speaks U on Nov. 13 to raise money and awareness about autism with their first Swim-A-Thon.
The event was open to the community and students at the college. Participants paid a minimum $7 and could swim as many laps as they wanted. There were also food, raffles and music. All of the money was donated to the national headquarters of Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest nonprofit science and advocacy organization for autism.
The event held personal meaning for sophomore Addie Dlott, founder of the college’s chapter.
“My brother has autism, and so it was something that I always grew up with and was something that meant a lot to me personally,” Dlott said.
Before coming to the college, Dlott volunteered with the Flyers Program in Framingham, Massachusetts, a program for students on the Autism Spectrum, for seven years, acting as a mentor and role model for students. When she arrived at the college, she said, she was looking for a club where she could continue to pursue her passion.
She found the Autism Awareness Club at the college last year, and she worked with the Autism Speaks headquarters over the summer to make the club affiliated with the program. Now, the club is called Autism Speaks U and is connected with hundreds of other Autism Speaks clubs across the country.
Junior Makenzie Karr, a member of the club swim team, said the event presented a good opportunity to give back.
“I participated in the Swim-A-Thon because I love swimming and I love helping people, and this event combined both of those things,” she said.
The club swim team is in its second semester of being an official club on campus and was looking for an event that would give it motivation to work as a team.
The swim team is in an unofficial league, so swim meets and events are not always guaranteed. Grant Brighter, an executive board member of the club swim team, said this was a way for the team to have something to rally around. In September, Brighter said, he reached out to Dlott with the idea that Autism Speaks U could benefit from the club swim team’s hosting an event like the Swim-A-Thon.
“I wanted to develop an event that would give us an excuse to work every single day and have something for the team to do as a team,” Brighter said.
Brighter said teaming up was a benefit to both parties. This was a way for Autism Speaks U to have its first major fundraising event of the year and for the club swim team to develop a set program for its club identity.
“I thought to myself, ‘We have this great resource here. We have a bunch of individuals who are dedicated and can be coordinated, so why not use that resource to do something to give back to the community?’” Brighter said.
Though the club swim team does not regularly do fundraisers, Brighter said this was exactly what they were looking for to bring swimming and service together.
There was no projected goal in mind for the Swim-A-Thon to reach in donations, but together, the clubs raised $250. Brighter and Dlott said that despite the outcome, they were happy with how the event went.
Dlott said about 30 people participated in the event and that they plan on doing the event again next year.
“For me, as long as someone has a good time or is moved or learned something, I think we have had a successful event,” Dlott said. “If one person can come up to me and say, ‘Hey, this is a cool event,’ then my day is made. Money is the last thing I am thinking about.”