When a tragic event happens, it’s normal for people to organize a marathon run in remembrance of those lost. But what happens when the event happens at a marathon? Cue the swimming community and The Swim Aids Hall of Famer Rhi Jeffrey.
Jeffrey and her team, Bernal’s Gator Swim Club, will host a marathon swim in memory of those killed and injured at the Boston Marathon. The Gator Marathon for Marathon Victims will be Monday, May 13, at the Minuteman High School pool in Lexington, Mass., with all age groups (from five to 26) swimming. All proceeds from the marathon swim will go directly to One Fund Boston.
“It will be a regular practice for us with a moment of silence for the victims,” Rhi said.
While Rhi is helping promote the marathon, the idea came from Aviva Munoz, 12, a swimmer in the club’s Silver Squad.
“I got the idea for the event when I was going to swim practice,” Aviva said. “My mom told me about the Boston Marathon tragedy and I immediately knew I wanted to do something about it.”
After later hearing about the injuries to the victims, Aviva wanted to participate in a swimming-related event to raise money for them and their families.
The only problem was there was nothing scheduled in the swimming community.
“Since my upcoming Bat Mitzvah is doing a project to give back to the community, I decided my team and I could organize a swim to benefit the victims on our own,” Aviva said.
After Aviva shared the idea with her mother, Dara, they spoke with Michelle Sweeny, age group director, who then talked it over with coach Bernal.
“My mom discussed how and when we would do it,” Aviva said. “I wrote emails to the team about the event and my dad made pledge sheets, which I handed out in practices. Rhi’s been helping by promoting the event to magazines and websites.”
“Most of us were pretty scared. A lot of us were on lock down in our homes for the entire day,” Rhi said. “It’s one thing to read about something like this, it’s a completely different thing to live it.”
For many, the attack on a sporting event also hit them hard. Nearly everyone in the Boston area had a connection to the Marathon bombing. Aviva’s coach’s husband is a detective in the Watertown Police Department and member of the SWAT team. Even her teammate was at the finish line when the bombs went off.
“Everyone in Boston area has a connection in some way,” she said. “It affected the lives of so many people.”
“I have loved Boston ever since I moved here back in 2008. It’s the only place I’ve ever really felt like home,” Rhi said. “My family is from here and I was born here so my roots in Massachusetts run deep. I’m excited to give back to a place that has done so much for me.”
Aviva looks forward to the swim marathon. Not only will she get to spend time with her teammates and bond over doing something important for the community. She also hopes the marathon and fundraising will continue to encourage the victims and inspire others to help.
“Every year, my family and I watch the marathon at mile 21,” Aviva said. “The Marathon brings the community out and everyone is so friendly that day. People encourage others who they don’t even know. I hope this swim will let people know that even if they’re young, they can still make a different in the lives of people and they can change the world.
“I hope our swim will inspire the community to do even more for the victims and even more for Boston going forward,” Rhi said. “I just hope people can find it in their hearts to help. What these people went through was devastating and they need our support.”
To donate to the Bernal’s Gator Swim Club’s swim marathon (funds will directly go to One Fund Boston, which aids victims and their families), visit https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/0V7M5