Schenectady County

5-day swim nets $6,000 for fund

A long and wet five-day trek came to an end Sunday for a group of swimmers who raised $6,000 for a m

A long and wet five-day trek came to an end Sunday for a group of swimmers who raised $6,000 for a mental health fund by swimming 112 miles from the southern part of Lake Champlain to Albany.

The seven swimmers took turns in the water as the group progressed through the Champlain Canal and south down the Hudson River.

On Sunday, the group swam about 15 miles from Waterford to the Corning Preserve in Albany. The money was raised for the Children’s Mental Health Fund, according to swimmer and event organizer Steve Kirk.

Kirk helped start the annual event three years ago. He said he was motivated to raise money for mental health because he has a family member with Asperger’s Syndrome. He declined to be more specific, citing his family member’s privacy.

“I’ve been swimming for years,” Kirk said. “We wanted to have a unique way to raise money for [the cause.]”

During the swim, a kayak at either side of the swimmers guided them as the group trailed a lead boat. Every half hour, swimmers would alternate between resting on the boat and swimming.

Kirk estimated that the group covered the most water on Friday, with each swimmer traveling at least 5 miles and the group progressing 30 miles throughout the day. Swimmers traveled about a mile every 30 minutes, Kirk said.

At least one swimmer was in the water at all times while the group was en route to Albany, except for one instance on Saturday afternoon for about 21⁄2 miles. The swimmers got out of the water because of lightning, Kirk said.

“It’s a good attention-seeker and there’s not very many people who could even think about swimming as much as they do,” said Troy resident John Husson, who volunteered on a kayak on Wednesday and Thursday. “I kind of feel honored to be part of such a strenuous activity.”

Kirk lives in Wynantskill and said his swimming group trains regularly at an area pool. He said they will start training for next year’s event in a few weeks.

“There’s a lot of planning and organizing that goes into it,” Kirk said. “We really gear up for it.”

As the group approached the finish line at the Riverfront Bar and Grill in Albany’s Corning Preserve, at least one swimmer did a backstroke while passing under a rail bridge across the Hudson River. The lead boat docked at the restaurant to cheers from several dozen friends and family members.

Kirk’s 16-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, rode in a kayak and guided the swimmers throughout the five-day journey. She also swam about a half-mile.

“Next year I’m doing the whole thing,” she said. “I think it’s an awesome feeling just knowing you’re helping so many people.”

The $6,000 will be split evenly between Four Winds Saratoga and the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University at Albany. Four Winds provides a range of inpatient and outpatient mental health services to people of all ages. The 26-arce campus off Crescent Avenue has 88 inpatient beds.

The Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at UAlbany provides free services to qualified local families with children and adults who have mental health disorders such as Asperger’s and autism. The center also conducts ongoing research on autism spectrum disorders.

The Upstate New York Chapter of the NFL Alumni also helped coordinate the event. Swimmers raised the money by getting donations from friends and family.

Kirk, who is also on the executive board of the local NFL Alumni chapter, said he hopes the concept will catch on with other groups looking to raise money for mental health causes.

Categories: Schenectady County

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