As the details A Long Swim began to gel, we wanted to do something with it other than be a celebration of my selfishness. Other people have used Channel swims to bring attention to specific causes or charities, and some have made a world of difference. One friend, Mike Solberg of Rockford, is a Congregational minister and used his 2009 Channel swim to raise $70,000 to build a school in Africa. The last I heard from Mike, he was headed to Angola to attend the dedication of the school.
We decided to take a little different tack. My family has been touched by a neurological disease called ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. There will be a number of discussions in this blog about ALS, but it robs the person of their ability to use their muscles, ultimately their ability to speak, breathe or swallow. ALS affects a relatively small number of people, so it doesn’t attract the kind of research dollars that similar diseases, like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, do. To address that need, there is a wonderful group right here in the Chicago area called the Les Turner ALS Foundation, that is dedicated to ALS patients and all that they go through, as well as funding research to someday break through to a cure. So, we will be using the Channel swim to raise money, 100% of which will go to the Les Turner Foundation which, in turn, will dedicate 100% of that to ALS research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
I have witnessed firsthand the struggles of people with ALS. It broke my heart when I saw my father unable to raise his arm to shake hands with someone, or even to be able to feed himself. Those struggles are far more difficult than anything I could do, and something as trivial as swimming from England to France, while difficult, pales in comparison with what I have seen these people go through every day. As I said earlier, I am an extraordinarily fortunate guy – I can breathe, I can steadily move the muscles in my arms and legs, and I am going to do my level best to pull off A Long Swim.
See you at the pool. I will report back.