Mama Madison: When swimming is more than fun

Honoring Shelley Glover's legacy

For someone whose summer social life centers almost entirely around the pool, it's kind of a shame I don't like getting in the water. I am happy to spend hours watching my children, even the children of others, do water ballet moves, the backstroke and go off the diving board -- as long as it's from the safety of a comfortable deck chair. I take my refusal to get my hair wet so seriously in fact, that I rarely even put on a swimsuit.

But all my stay-dry tactics aside, I do know how to swim. I learned in elementary school and am absolutely safe to take on a boat, to the lake, or even white water rafting. And I have insisted that my kids take lessons, at least through Red Cross Level Six, as well. I've told my daughter that her strokes don't need to be pretty, but they do need to be mastered. Even the ever-elusive butterfly; it's a family rule. I remind my kids they are very fortunate to get the chance to learn to swim as part of their summer activities. Not every kid in Madison can say the same.

When Shelley Glover was a child, she'd come home from Lincoln School, and tell her mother Carmella that she wished all the kids in her class could have as much fun as she did playing sports. She loved summer swimming with the Shorewood Pool Sharks and playing soccer for the 56ers. Eventually her love of ski racing led her to become one of the best alpine ski racers to come out of the Midwest and she was named to the U.S. Ski development team at age 15. Tragically, Shelley died in 2004 in a ski training accident at the age of 17.

In 2005, to honor her legacy, the Shelley Glover Sports Education Foundation was founded to make sure that more kids, regardless of their financial situation, get the chance to know the joy and health benefits of participating in sports, especially Glover's beloved soccer, skiing and swimming.

The organization's first fundraiser, Kids Swimming for Kids [PDF], took place at Shorewood Pool that same year. My oldest son, eight at the time and enjoying his first summer as a Shark, eagerly gathered pledges for every lap he swam. The excitement at the pool that morning was palpable and I vividly remember meeting Carmella, hearing Shelley's story, and understanding what a gift her foundation was to the community. Since its inception, Kids Swimming for Kids has expanded to eight area pools and raises more than $12,000 each summer. Over $150,000 has been raised to date with much of this money going to develop the Goodman Waves (http://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/pool/swimTeam.cfm), the public pool's first swim team. This year the Goodman Waves has 105 swim team members; forty swimmers receive scholarships.

But you don't have to be a (Shorewood) Shark, a (Westside) Dolphin, or a (Hill Farms) Cow swim team member to get the chance to support this wonderful cause. Because Thursday, July 19 from 7-9 pm the first, and hopefully annual, Shelley Glover Sports Education Foundation City-Wide Pool Party will be held at the Goodman Pool. For just a $10 donation per person you get an evening of swimming, entertainment provided by Celebrations, and a hot dog snack. All funds raised will benefit the Kids Swimming for Kids program, allowing further access to swim lessons, pool passes and swim team scholarships for deserving kids at Goodman.

No, I can't be persuaded to go under water easily. But I can't think of a better reason to actually don a swimsuit this week, blistering heat aside, than to honor Shelley's legacy and her gift to the Madison community.

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