Making a splash, one woman living with MS has turned her passion for swimming into a way to raise money for a good cause.
Summertime is in full swing, and people nationwide are diving into pools to make a difference for those living with multiple sclerosis (MS). Since the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) first launched their “Swim for MS” campaign in 2008, the nonprofit organization has raised more than $320,000 to support research, programs, and services that benefit the MS community.
Rather than a one-time event, the Swim for MS campaign involves a series of local events put on by volunteers. There are no strict rules—volunteers can swim solo, form a team, or try something entirely new.
“One of the great things about the Swim for MS fundraiser is that anyone, anywhere can create their own unique challenge and make it fun,” said Sarah Masino, community relations coordinator for the MSAA, in an interview with Healthline. “We’ve had people hold cannonball jumping contests, a synchronized swim, and pool parties. A pool party is a great one-day event that people can host in their own backyard or community pool.”
Susie Jamharian of Albuquerque, N.M., said she was inspired to organize her own Swim for MS event. She wasn’t sure if she could do it at first, she told Healthline, but she felt compelled to help raise awareness of MS and to give back to the organization that has helped her since she was diagnosed with MS in 2004.
“MSAA is a leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support,” she said. “That is why I took up the swimming challenge. I committed to swim 1,000 laps in 30 days to raise $3,000 for this wonderful and helpful association.”
Jamharian was amazed at the outpouring of generosity from her family, friends, and acquaintances. “Words cannot describe how loved and supported I felt,” she said. She exceeded her goal and raised $3,500 for the MSAA in just 18 days.
“So much for doubting myself!” Jamharian said.
Jamharian was named top fundraiser in the Swim for MS campaign in both March and April. While this was exciting—she even received letters of recognition for her work—Jamharian realizes there are benefits to swimming for a cause that go beyond raising money.
“Swimming is the best sport,” said Jamharian. “I feel stronger in the water, and I feel so much better once I finish my laps, and I do not have to worry about getting overheated. This is how I stay fit.”
Indeed, recent studies have shown that physical activity is beneficial for people living with MS. It decreases fatigue, improves cognition, and can even reduce symptoms of depression.
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“Swimming and other forms of aquatic exercise have well-established health benefits for many fitness levels,” Masino pointed out. “For individuals with MS, the cooling and buoyant properties of water can create an ideal exercise environment, allowing for movements that may not be possible on land, while keeping them from overheating, which can trigger MS symptoms. Some benefits of swimming and aquatic exercise for individuals with MS include improved flexibility, muscle strength, mobility function, psychological well-being, and overall quality of life.”
Taking part in a fundraising event like Swim for MS can also be a positive and empowering act for someone living with MS.
“I feel more confident now that I can meet any other challenges that I may face,” said Jamharian. No matter how much money an event might raise, the positive feeling of accomplishing your goal is priceless.”
To learn more about starting your own fundraising event, visit www.swimforms.org.