The Fins Swimteam’s Annual Fund Raiser

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

A sport must have some element of fun for me to really enjoy it. Take it down a notch and forget about records, medals, and titles. The Fins know how to have fun, and our Postal Swim last weekend reminded me why I am a proud member of the team. As our board president Anh Dang put it: “The event blends three main aspects of the Fins: swimming, social, and community service.” True dat. I joined the team just a year ago, and it was instant love. I can now run around a speedo in the middle of winter without blasting my heat up or freaking out my cats.

A whole crop of us did the one hour non-stop swim for the first time this year, motivated by the spirit of charity and driven by personal ambition. Pro athletes often get caught up in compensation-related drama. When sporting locally and recreationally, athletes push themselves for the love of the game and the thrill of competing against your best self. The Fins is among a bevy of local LGBT teams and leagues that funnel their collective ambition beyond the games and towards charitable efforts. Athletics are one of many arenas where team play reaps incalculable rewards, and that same formidable competitive chutzpah often soars out of the bounds of the playing field, redirected to help local organizations. When it’s all about fun from get-go, it’s much easier to stop and ask yourself, “How can we give back to the community at the same time?” We come to these sports after our full-time jobs, a diverse collection of LGBT athletes and allies representing every age, race, profession, and tax bracket.

There are more arduous physical feats known to man, but swimming for a whole hour with no rest is certainly nothing to scoff at. A contingent of the team is what’s known as “lifers”, the ones who were thrown into the pool at the age of two and have not gotten out since. They pretty much freestyle their way through long distances between snacks. Many of us came to swimming later in life though, and for some much later. There is no statute of limitations on trying something new and I have yet to see a person with an expiration date on them. All you need is a sense of purpose, determination, and an easy-going attitude that allows you to laugh at yourself when you stumble over those first few steps.

While the Postal Swim is technically a competition with other U.S. Masters Swimming teams, the highlight for many Fins is that each year we choose a local charity to donate funds. The year we chose MANNA, paying considerable attention, in these tough economic times, to choosing an organization that provides essential services and has been hit hard by the continually depleting funds that are available to go around. I have not seen a bailout for non-profits yet. I look forward to the team’s fundraising tally announcement later this month. [Note: Even though the Postal Swim was on Jan. 24th, we are raising funds until Feb. 14th. Still time to donate! Grab a Fin and slip some cash in his/her speedo.]

The Fins have sponsored their Postal Swim fundraising event since 1998. Past recipients have included The Attic Youth Center, The Mazzoni Center, and the Linda Creed Breast Cancer Foundation. Typically, the money raised is split 50/50 between the Fins and that year’s charity. In 2007, 100% of funds raises were given to MANNA in memory of Fins co-founder and head coach Jim Robles, who had recently died from AIDS-related illness.

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