Fulton County

Teen’s Sacandaga swim to raise money, awareness of autism

A year ago in August, Mary-Kate Poulin of Northville swam across the Great Sacandaga Lake on a dare.

A year ago in August, Mary-Kate Poulin of Northville swam across the Great Sacandaga Lake on a dare. This year, she is doing it again because she cares.

Poulin, 16, plans to swim from Northampton Marina to the other side of the lake and back, a total of three miles, starting at sunrise Aug. 12. Her goal is to raise more than $5,000 for Autism Speaks, a nonprofit group that supports efforts to cure autism.

The Gloversville High School senior raised $7,000 for the organization last year, her first attempt, but swam only 11⁄2 miles. She did it then, in part, on a dare from her parents, Karen and Michael Poulin. They challenged the teenager to “swim across the lake if she was such a good swimmer,” she said.

How to help

Donations for the effort may be sent to P.O. Box 1231, Northville, N.Y. 12134. Checks should be made out to “Autism Speaks.”

For Poulin, a record-holding swimmer with the Sea Dragons at Gloversville High School, the swim across the lake proved an easy accomplishment.

Poulin also performed the swim on behalf of her younger brother, Michael, 15, who is autistic. “He will be there [Aug. 12] and watching. He will bring a friend and will jump in at the end and swim the last 20 yards with me,” she said.

The first event helped make her more aware of autism and its impact on the community. “I didn’t realize how much I cared about autism until I started looking into it,” she said.

Joining her for this year’s swim, as he did last year, is her boyfriend, Chris Mosconi, 18, a freshman at Le Moyne College in Syracuse and also a record-holding swimmer at Gloversville High School.

“I agreed to it as soon as she asked me,” said the son of Mark and Toni Mosconi of Gloversville. “And I wanted to help out.”

Poulin chose to double the distance this year because “we were afraid we were not going to get the same response we had last year, and we wanted to raise awareness.”

Lara Collazo of Autism Speaks said Poulin’s swim is currently the only event to raise funds and awareness scheduled for upstate New York. The group hopes to raises $800,000 at this year’s New York City Marathon.

“It think it is phenomenal that a teenager is doing this once again to support her brother. Just raising the awareness alone is huge, and on top of that, they are hoping to raise $5,000 for the cause,” Collazo said.

Autism Speaks relies primarily on foundation grants and donations to fund research into the cause, prevention, treatment and a cure for autism; to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and to advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families, according to its website.

“Mary-Kate is doing something in an area where we do not have a large impact in the community. We are behind her 100 percent,” Collazo said.

Poulin and Mosconi have been training for weeks for their swim, which will take about two hours to complete. This time around, it will be more of a challenge, the teenagers said.

“It is in open water. We will be swimming against the waves and current,” Mosconi said.

Poulin plans to raise money again next year for Autism Speaks, but is not sure yet what activity she will perform as a fundraiser.

Categories: Schenectady County

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