A Letter to Our A Long Swim Team

A Long Swim, ALS, Letter, Lake Michigan, Open Water Swimming

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Dear A Long Swim team,

The COVID-19 pandemic dominates our thoughts and our behavior now – it is frightening to feel powerless. The A Long Swim team knows the frustrations and fear all too well. They are the same feelings we have known as we were plunged into the world of ALS.

It was that feeling of powerlessness that made us want to do something in the first place. Swimming restores our power, and A Long Swim has used open water and marathon distance swimming to raise $1 million for collaborative ALS research in ten years.

The analogies between ALS and COVID-19 are unmistakable, and the impacts of COVID-19 on A Long Swim in 2020 are numerous:

  • ALS Patients. COVID-19 is catastrophic for ALS patients. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that gradually prevents the signals from the brain to reach the muscles, including the diaphragm. Compromised breathing makes ALS patients highly susceptible to viral or other infection. Our hearts bleed for these patients and their loved ones.
  • Fundraising. The traditional model for A Long Swim to raise money for ALS research has been upended for this year. We raise money in three ways; Lake Swims, Signature Swims (English Channel, etc.), and Sponsorship of triathletes and other endurance athletes. At this point, we are certain that COVID-19 will have an impact on all three, but we don’t know what those impacts will be.
  • Chicago River Swim. For the last four years, we’ve been working hard to secure the approvals to host an open water swim to the Chicago River, which would reintroduce an event that has been dormant for nearly 100 years. While our vision of 200+ swimmers, a Wendella boat, banners from bridges and thousands of fans will now have to be in 2021, we are furiously working on putting a very select group of swimmers in the water in 2020, more details to come!

We are proactively responding to these challenges – we may host just one Lake Swim instead of two and we are looking at shrinking the size of the Chicago River Swim to prove that it can be done safely, and plan to ramp it up for 2021. We won’t ever run out of ideas, but fundraising is a different subject. At the very least, the way that A Long Swim raises funds for collaborative ALS research will be different in 2020.

The US Congress was concerned about nonprofits’ fundraising in the face of COVID-19, which is addressed in a provision of the CARES Act. The Act specifically addressed the tax treatment of charitable contributions by individuals. According to Baird Wealth Management, “Even if you don’t itemize deductions, you can take an above-the-line deduction of up to $300 for charitable cash contributions made to 501(c)(3) organizations on your 2020 tax return. If you can itemize deductions on your 2020 return, the 60% adjusted gross income limitation for charitable contribution deductions is suspended, letting you deduct as much as 100% of your 2020 adjusted gross income.”

A Long Swim will humbly accept contributions of any size. We are on a mission, and we are grateful that you are on the Team. To donate, visit our donation page.



Your A Long Swim Team


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