Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It Takes a Community


The entire Bay Area awakened to the rare sound of thunder and lightning, and it occurred to me that not much can stop the Aquathon from happening, but lightning can put the brakes on any swimming. As I drove down to SJSU at the crack of dawn, the skies were brightening and the clouds had a pinkish hue. My 7th time with the Aquathon and 4th time coordinating the event. It is funny how routine it has become yet, relief from sweating the details gives me more of an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of this event, and how far we have come in 4 years.

I was the first to arrive at the pool and the solitude, still waters and empty deck brought me a sense of peace and calmness. There was a familiarity to the place and I started to unload my car as people began to drift in. Soon the place would be bustling but for now, it was my world alone. The Balloon man was putting up the red and white balloon arch, which rocked back and forth in the mild breeze.

People were arriving and it felt to me a bit like a family holiday, with friends I hadn’t seen since last year, hugs and smiles, and a sense of camaraderie in getting together again for something important. I could feel the charge in the air and as the music started, a joyous feeling. It was time to start - Cole and his dad were in the water and ready to go. They made their way across the pool to the sounds of Celine Dion singing “The Power of a Dream”. I looked over at Wendy and she had tears in her eyes. Yes, indeed, it is the dreams we have for our children, no matter what the disability, that keeps parents going.

As I made my way around the pool, I saw Maritza with her mom; Maritza has cerebral palsy and her hair and nails are always perfectly done. Her hair was beautifully braided; she had been talking for weeks about her yellow swimsuit. Maritza was so excited that she had awakened every hour last night. Ali who is developmentally and physically disabled had a grin as wide as his face, getting into the pool, ready for his swim. I spotted the NVIDIA team and I was eager to see Martina’s baby; the last time I saw her, she was pregnant with him. Can it be possible that he is already 19 months old? Oracle’s swimmers, very serious, waved and gestured that they couldn’t talk until they were done racing. The music was playing and it sounded good. I had spent Wednesday evening pulling songs off my playlist, searching for the liveliest and most recent tunes, ones that had the right beat for swimming. There was a charge in the air, people were happy and having fun, and most of all, feeling good about why they were there.

The rest of the morning bustled with activity--laps and laps and laps being swum, gallons of juice and hundreds of bagels consumed, many photos taken, and medals given to proud youngsters. It all ran like clockwork, amazingly enough, and thanks to over 50 wonderful volunteers and as someone put it, our “small but mighty” staff team.

All the days and weeks of planning, and so quickly, the morning was over. Good byes were said, thank you hugs warmly given, and once again, the pool deck was quiet. The balloons had been taken down and popped, all the food was packed away, and the cars loaded up. We were left with wonderful memories and a warm feeling in our hearts. Another year, another aquathon.

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