April 13, 2012
BERKELEY - Since 1981, more than $12 million has been raised through the "Swim With Mike" swim-a-thon fundraiser benefitting 119 Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship recipients. The fund is the only one of its kind allowing students who have overcome life-challenging accidents or illnesses to pursue both undergraduate and graduate degrees at USC and beginning 11 years ago, other college campuses, including the University of California.
The second annual Swim With Mike Cal will be held at California's Spieker Aquatics Complex on Sunday, April 15, 2012. For more information, visit swimwithmike.org.
Celebrating its 32nd year, Swim With Mike has awarded $774,000 collectively to 49 disabled athletes through its Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship. Paving the way for physically challenged athletes to overcome their disability and return to school, the scholarship has provided tuition and financial assistance toward housing and books at USC and 53 other universities.
This school year, two students are enrolled at Cal, and 42 at universities spanning the nation. In order to qualify for a Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship, applicants must have suffered an illness or injury that resulted in a physical disability that substantially limits major life activity; have participated in organized high school or college athletics prior to the illness or injury; meet admissions requirements of the selected university, and maintain a 2.5 GPA while enrolled.
The scholarship fund is 100% volunteer-run, supported by corporate and private donations, and the annual Swim With Mike swim-a-thons (www.swimwithmike.org). Swim With Mike began as a fund-raiser, "Swim FOR Mike," to purchase a specially equipped van for three-time All-American USC swimmer, and past NCAA Inspiration Award winner Mike Nyeholt, who became paralyzed in a motorcycle accident in 1981. At Nyeholt's suggestion, the excess monies raised that year were used to aid other athletes overcome paralyzing or physically disabling injuries or illnesses, and return to school. With the help of Nyeholt's teammate and now USC Associate Athletic Director Ron Orr, "Swim WITH Mike" was born the following year when Nyeholt returned to swim laps. Last year, 500 participants swam laps and helped raise $1,517,000. The largest individual gift of $500,000 by Karin Larson is to endow the executive director position.
"To not be able to play the sport you love can be devastating, but my friend, Ron Orr, started Swim With Mike to prove that there is a support system to moving on, especially when it comes to education," said Nyeholt. "This year marks our 11th anniversary of offering the scholarship to those attending schools other than USC. We have recipients at eight new institutions this year. I've had the pleasure of watching our recipients overcome their tragedies, both physically and mentally. We have an impressive recipient and alumni list, and multiple athletes who have participated in the Paralympics, triathlons, marathons. "
Former Cal men's water polo player Mike Sample has since been an important part in organizing and starting the event at the Spieker Aquatics Complex on Cal's campus. A Golden Bear from 2005-2009, Sample was a two-time national champion (2006 and 2007) and a co-captain of the 2009 squad. He joined the Swim with Mike - Cal effort after his recent graduation.
Sample adds, "After great success in 2011, Swim with Mike is back at Cal for a second year! The University has been incredibly supportive of the cause so we are expecting an awesome time and a huge turnout."