Alicia Pinter, an administrative assistant in York University’s Information and Privacy Office, knows what’s it’s like to have a fear of water and drowning. That was until she joined a learn to swim program at the Tait Mckenzie Centre. Now, she knows how to swim with confidence and wanted to pay it forward.
She got her chance at this fall’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Pinter was joined by 16 fellow York University runners – some of them newbies – who raced in the 5-kilometre or half-marathon event in support of the York Lions Swim 2 Survive program. The program provides free swimming lessons for members of the Jane/Finch/Keele community between the ages of five and 18.
Together, they raised $3,010 for the Swim 2 Survive program, greatly exceeding their original goal of $2,000, and Pinter was the top fundraiser bringing in $760. Jennifer Myers, director of York’s Sport and Recreation, was the second place fundraiser with $495, followed by Leanne De Filippis with $475.
“You see, I never had the opportunity to learn to swim growing up and I’d even developed an overwhelming fear of being in bodies of water. Then last year, I decided I was ready to squash my irrational fear and learn to swim,” says Pinter.
“My then instructor, Krista, was amazing … by lesson number two I was like a fish, completely at ease in and around the pool and enjoying every minute of it! Forward to today, I’m still learning and building on those skills with the great instructors at Tait and will continue to do so. This is why the Swim 2 Survive program resonated so strongly with me.”
Pinter believes every child should have the chance to learn how to swim and lessons can prove too expensive for some. The Swim 2 Survive program has enjoyed great success in the past two years. In 2013, it taught 300 participants to swim and feel comfortable and safe in the water for free. The program underwrites the cost of instructors, pool time and, in many situations, organizes and/or provides transportation to and from the Tait McKenzie facility.
Learning to run was another challenge for Pinter, but one she gladly took on to help out the swim program. She immediately signed up for the run clinics and groups being offered through Recreation York in May. The program combined formal run topic information sessions with informal group runs, and was designed to help interested participants train for and successfully compete in one of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon races Oct. 19. The running program took place throughout the summer and early fall.
Sheila Ferreira, York apartments assistant, York Apartments, CSBO, started running with the Tait Running Club because she was looking to add a different exercise to her workout. “I thought I would try running. I never ran before (not since elementary school) and thought why not, let’s give it a try. What’s the worst that could happen?” she says. “I ended up meeting three amazing women and two excellent coaches. This is what kept me coming out each week and what kept me motivated.”
She grew to love running and the challenges it presented. “The running club gave me a feeling of I can do anything. Hence signing up for the 5 km Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon,” says Ferreira. “Running the 5 km has shown me that anything is possible at any age. With the proper training and support anything is possible. Can’t wait for the next one.”
This is one item Ferreira never thought she would check off her bucket list. The fact that she was also able to help out the Swim 2 Survive program was an added bonus.
As Pinter says, “I was so happy to pay it forward by participating in the fundraiser … I hope the program continues.”