Schenectady County

Starfish pool their talent and energy for a good cause

For nearly four hours today, members of the Starfish Swim Club exhausted themselves with one lap aft
The Starfish Swim Club held a swim-athon for cystic fibrosis at the Niskayuna High School swimming pool on Saturday morning January 23, 2016.
The Starfish Swim Club held a swim-athon for cystic fibrosis at the Niskayuna High School swimming pool on Saturday morning January 23, 2016.

For nearly four hours, members of the Starfish Swim Club exhausted themselves Saturday with one lap after another in the Niskayuna High School pool.

For nearly two months prior to the club’s 16th annual “Swim Mania” event, those swimmers exhausted themselves working toward something bigger.

As part of the swim-athon fundraiser, the club with roughly 250 members from across the Capital Region helped pool together nearly $24,000 in total. At least $5,000 of that money will head to the Donna M. Crandall Foundation, which provides financial help to cystic fibrosis patients and their families. Money from the event also goes toward helping to cover the Starfish’s yearly expenses, plus USA Swimming.

Denise Murphy McGraw, the president of the Starfish, said this year’s event was financially the most successful in its history. That’s great, she said, but mainly because it means the lesson the club tries to impart from the effort is taking hold.

“We really just want them all to participate,” she said. “For us as a club, the importance is to teach them about community leadership and to give back to their communities when they can.”

Since its second Swim Mania, the club’s annual fundraiser has helped to do that with its goal to help the Crandall Foundation, which honors the memory of a local woman who passed away after living with cystic fibrosis for 41 years.

For a variety of reasons, choosing to help the Crandall Foundation was a logical choice for the Starfish. Crandall’s husband, David, was a longtime principal in the Niskayuna school system where many of the Starfish swimmers attend; a past Starfish dealt with the condition; and the impact that a disease affecting someone’s lungs would have for a person hits home for swimmers in a unique way.

“You need good breath control in swimming; kids find out very quickly the importance of that,” McGraw said. “So, when we explain cystic fibrosis, [it makes sense to them].”

Members of the Starfish generally come from Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady counties. The boys and girls in the club range from 6 to 18 years old, from beginning swimmers to high school champions.

Alison Sposili, a 13-year-old from Clifton Park, has been with the Starfish for several years. Each season, she said, the team’s swimmers get their fundraising information a couple months before the Swim Mania event.

“Then we have all that time to raise as much money as we can,” said Sposili, a Shenendehowa seventh-grader who raised $250 this year.

Sposili said she finds her money from her family and friends, usually using text messages or emails to discover donations.

This past year, Christina Lau — a 16-year-old Niskayuna High School sophomore — used fliers to find funds, but utilized a more unorthodox method when she was younger.

“I’d trick-or-treat for donations instead of candy,” said Lau, who raised $550 this year.

The top raiser this year was McGraw’s daughter, Caroline, who brought in $1,200.

Throughout their season, Starfish swimmers collect wins at various events. Being an individual winner, though, is not the goal for the fundraiser. The whole point is for each kid to look beyond herself or himself.

“We want to teach them that there’s something more out there besides themselves,” McGraw said.

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