BENEFITING: Thornwell Home For Children
This fundraiser is about helping one single child who lives at a children's home in the U.S. Your funds go directly to that home with the specification of the "Butterfly Fund". The string of events I am about to describe all began this past Summer, while I led our church's youth group to a wonderful children's home (formerly an orphanage). While working there for a week we had many of the usual assignments such as painting, landscaping, and cleanup; however, the most rewarding assignment was actually teaching swimming lessons. In one of the classes, we met a very special child (who shall remain anonymous for privacy and security reasons). I remember thinking how much potential and opportunity there is for a child like this in a normal family, and how much of that can be robbed by circumstances beyond their control. I also remembered teaching and coaching swimming at a wealthy country club as a Summer job. I had seen so many kids from very "well-off" families try to swim butterfly, the most difficult stroke, for the first time. I can remember their reactions, the beginner stroke mistakes that were common, and their looks of trying something for the first time that was very difficult- even though Michael Phelps makes it look so easy! I also remember that learning swimming was not really that big of a deal to the country club kids, since life had so much to offer in the form of golf and tennis camps, exotic vacations, high end electronic devices, and of course the snack bar and grill. Butterfly was nothing new, as they had all seen the other kids swim it at meets. Those memories were part of a whole different world than the pool I was teaching on this special day. Butterfly is not easy to learn, especially for a child for the first time. In fact, even seasoned swimmers will agree it is tough and painful. So with all of the buzz about the Olympics in Rio, I asked the group of children in the swimming class if they had ever learned to swim butterfly? None of them had ever even seen or heard about a stroke called "Butterfly". The Olympics had not yet started, and so this was a totally new concept for them, but they were very excited! So we began working on the dolphin kick for a little while, and then I showed them a demonstration of butterfly swimming. When I surfaced they were amazed like they had just witnessed Michael Phelps, himself! My swimming career was already long over when he was born, and my fly is not the best with the whole Dad-bod that I am rocking out these days. But these kids were amazed! I asked them if they wanted to try; and one at a time, they started trying it out with all of the usual beginner results, laughing, and really enjoying this crazy stroke called butterfly. Then it was the turn for this very special child to give it a try, and she kind of turned away, shaking her head, and was very unsure of making an attempt. Honestly, it must of felt to her like the first flight at Kittyhawk by the Wright brothers. This is a child that has had absolutely no chances, no privilege, no real encouragement, no private lessons, no country club life, no T-ball, no soccer games, no ability to carpool, no refrigerator to hang school pictures, and nothing to tap into for courage. She did not even have a pair of goggles to use in her first ever attempt at the most difficult swimming stroke- the Butterfly. I am not sure why, but it was in that moment that I knew somehow this one child would not be left out, not forgotten, not overlooked, or not lost in the system. I would be sure of that, but I would need help, your help. So I said quietly something encouraging to the effect that I knew she could do it, but I was worried the other kids were about to start teasing her as they waited to watch. There she was at Kittyhawk with the wind in her face, on top of a giant sand dune with the shakiest of wings, and then she launched. And she flew. It was the most perfect, beautiful butterfly swimming I had ever seen on the first try. And when she came up at the wall, the other kids were silent, and flight was now possible. Butterfly was possible, and maybe so would happiness be one day. The least known and newest Butterfly swimmer in the world was born with equal amounts of unlimited potential and total disadvantage. As I later watched the Olympics in Rio, I never saw more courage or more of God's wonderful possibility as what I had witnessed in those 10 yards of swimming. It changed me forever. So then I asked how can we help this one child, and the answer was very simple. Children in these situations often have more than a sand dune to battle, more than a pool to cross, and instead they have a mountain climb ahead of them to work through each day. Thankfully there are wonderful human beings helping them like loyal Sherpas. These guides are essential to navigate and cross the crevasse of the healing process, to protect from storms to come, and to find that pinnacle where the grace of God reaches out to hold the hand of a forgotten child up into the air in victory of the climb. Without funding there are no guides, and without your help, there is no chance. I am just one guy trying to help one brave child find what they need to help find their way up the mountain. Thank you swimming world for caring and for helping in some small way.