By Darryl Gangloff
Energetic Bearcats dove into Lake Wononscopomuc on Sept. 9 for the 29th Annual Hotchkiss Swimathon and completed a two-mile swim to support both Special Olympics Connecticut and Special Olympics Slovakia—two organizations that are working to help Ukrainian refugee families.
Approximately 50 swimmers entered the water, which is the largest group that has participated in the Swimathon since its venue switched to the lake from Hixon Pool in 2020. Bearcats worked together as they swam a mile to the Salisbury Town Grove. Some rode a boat back and cheered on the 38 participants who completed the round-trip swim to Hotchkiss. Everyone celebrated with a delicious barbecue on the beach.
Last year, the Swimathon directly supported the creation of the Dream Day Care Center in Bratislava, Slovakia, which opened in October 2022 to care for Ukrainian refugee children born with intellectual disabilities. This year, the Hotchkiss Special Olympics Club set a fundraising goal of $25,000, which is the amount Special Olympics Connecticut has again pledged to help maintain the center. The Swimathon donation page states that "families with children with special needs have found it particularly challenging to move to a new country with a new language. The Dream Day Care Center ... is a place where those children can go to learn, play, and grow."
“Their families are still displaced by Vladimir Putin's cruel war. We will continue to do everything we can to support them,” said Swimathon founder Keith Moon P’13,’16,’20, who is the E. Carleton Granbery Teaching Chair, a Lufkin Prize recipient, and an instructor in English, history and Russian language. He is passionate about helping the people of Ukraine and raising funds for Special Olympics Connecticut. Moon has served on the organization’s board of directors for nearly a decade.
Mike Mason, president and CEO of Special Olympics Connecticut, attended the Swimathon for the first time and expressed his gratitude to the swimmers. “Thank you all so much for being here,” he told the crowd. “We’re running an event this weekend for 1,100 athletes, and we can’t do that without people like you raising the money to make it possible.”
Mason also thanked Quisha Lee ’24, who is a co-head of the Hotchkiss Special Olympics Club and swam across the lake on Saturday. Quisha has raised more than $56,000 for Special Olympics Connecticut through her Soaring Souls: Honor Our Heroes photography exhibit documenting Special Olympians in Connecticut, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The show was displayed at Hotchkiss in the spring and in Hong Kong in July. “The Special Olympics and Paralympics athletes I met over the past year showed me the importance of self-confidence, motivation, and love,” she said in a Hotchkiss Magazine profile. “While documenting these athletes of all ages, I truly felt that they were stronger and more inspiring than other athletes I’ve met. They did not view themselves as disabled or at a disadvantage and simply trained to the best of their abilities.”
The moment Moon stepped out of the water, he said, “I feel terrific. We had a big group, and everyone had really positive energy. It means a lot to me that we can reach out beyond Hotchkiss and do something for the community. It’s a very important organization and cause, and I’m proud of our Special Olympics Club for pulling this together so well.”