Diving deep: Swim-a-thon raises money for charity

The Rossi sisters - Laine, 10, Liz, 7, and Sara, 6 - were among the
Naperville Swim Conference team members who helped raise a hefty
donation for Loaves & Fishes Community Services. Here they present the donation week to Jody Bender, Loaves & Fishes' director of community engagement, as Naperville Swim Conference board member Dale Dionesotes looks on.
The Rossi sisters - Laine, 10, Liz, 7, and Sara, 6 - were among the Naperville Swim Conference team members who helped raise a hefty donation for Loaves & Fishes Community Services. Here they present the donation week to Jody Bender, Loaves & Fishes' director of community engagement, as Naperville Swim Conference board member Dale Dionesotes looks on.
Susan Frick Carlman
scarlman@stmedianetwork.com | @scarlman
July 31 8:39 a.m.
Laps for a cause

These six teams from the Naperville Swim Conference — listed with the neighborhoods, subdivisions or clubs in which they’re based — took part in the organization’s first swim-a-thon fundraiser during June.

Breakers, Breckenridge
Buccaneers, Brookdale
Rebels, Cress Creek Country Club
Seahawks, Huntington Estates
Cardinals, Naper Carriage Hill
Raptors, River Run

As Rebels, the Rossi girls know their swim techniques pretty well. Laine, 10, an incoming fifth-grader at Mill Street Elementary School, is strongest in freestyle, as is 6-year-old Sara, who will enter first grade this fall. Between the two sisters in age is Liz, who’s about to turn 8 and start third grade. Her best stroke is the butterfly, when the trio of siblings compete with the rest of their Naperville Swim Conference teammates.

All three girls understand that sometimes people have trouble staying afloat — sometimes when there isn’t even any water nearby. In the past, through Girl Scouts, they’ve visited and helped collect food for the pantry operated by Loaves & Fishes Community Services in Naperville.

The Rebels, based at Cress Creek Country Club, were among six conference teams that in June took part in their inaugural swim-a-thon, raising more than $6,000 to support Loaves & Fishes.

Asked how it felt to help raise such a tidy sum, Liz popped a thumb skyward.

“They understood where the money was going, what the purpose is,” said Amy Rossi, the girls’ mom and troop leader.

John Tarantino, a Rebels team dad who came up with the idea, said with 22 teams and nearly 3,000 swimmers on its member roster, the NSC is one of the country’s oldest and largest swim conferences.

“We thought it would be a good idea, with everything else that’s coming of this, to get the kids involved in charity,” said Tarantino, who presented the suggestion to the conference board in the spring.

Board member Dale Dionesotes, also a Rebels dad, said the board liked what it heard. He sees paying it forward as “a lifelong endeavor,” and wants to convey that mindset to the generation now in the pool.

The kids dove headfirst into the endeavor. Members of the participating teams circulated forms and gathered commitments for payment per lap, and for total pledge sums as well.

“A lot of kids were getting 20 cents or 50 cents a lap,” Tarantino said.

It all added up, totaling $6,552.99 when all the checks were in. As a first-attempt fundraiser, the undertaking did better than expected.

“I think everybody was pleasantly surprised with the amount of money raised,” Dionesotes said.

Now distributing more than 30 tons of groceries every week, Loaves & Fishes — which last month was named Safety Net Impact Agency of the Year by the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago — will make good use of the donation.

“We’re so grateful for the Naperville Swim Conference members who did something they love — practicing their sport — to make a big difference for their neighbors,” said Loaves & Fishes spokeswoman Jody Bender, who took the Rossi girls and their mom on a tour of the food distribution facility after they presented the donation, in an email. “The girls were so happy to help and said it felt so good to do something they already enjoy and help others at the same time.”

Discussion already has begun about how to do next year’s swim-a-thon, and whom it will benefit. Dionesotes said other causes, such as breast cancer education and treatment, are being considered. Next time around, work will begin earlier in the year and more teams are likely to take part. The dads agree it’s appropriate to think big.

“Quite frankly,” Dionesotes said, “I think it’s reasonable to think we could benefit more charities.”

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Laps for a cause

These six teams from the Naperville Swim Conference — listed with the neighborhoods, subdivisions or clubs in which they’re based — took part in the organization’s first swim-a-thon fundraiser during June.

Breakers, Breckenridge
Buccaneers, Brookdale
Rebels, Cress Creek Country Club
Seahawks, Huntington Estates
Cardinals, Naper Carriage Hill
Raptors, River Run

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