For fun and for a cause
Lisa Freed of New England Masters started swimming as an age-grouper and hasn't stopped since. Lisa remembers "swimming to the first rope and back" at her local beach club as a child. Lisa swam through high school and college. While attending Union College, a former all-boys college, she joined the swim team. At that time, the swim team was predominantly male with only a few girls. There was no women's swim team coach and no women's swim team recognition. "I guess we were just persistent," Lisa responded when asked how she and the other young women on the team convinced the school to separate the men and women, create an official women's swim team and hire a coach. This was an early sign that Lisa would continue using diligence and determination throughout her life.
Shortly after earning an undergraduate degree, Lisa returned to graduate school. While at Harvard, she used the pool for recreational fitness swimming. She met others swimming for fun and fitness and eventually joined the local Masters program. "Still, 20 years later, that group of people that I swam with is my greatest friends. I was young, much younger than some of the swimmers, but they sort of adopted me into their group." Lisa considers herself a competitive swimmer and though it is sometimes "scary," she competes in various types of Masters swimming competitions and events.
One event that has grown very close to Lisa's heart is the Breast Cancer Coalition Against the Tide open water swim. Lisa and her now ex-husband David (whom she met swimming) always looked for events in which to participate that also served as charity or awareness events. When Lisa came across Against the Tide, she knew that her connection to the event ran much deeper than her love of swimming because Lisa is the only woman in her family to have not been diagnosed with breast cancer. Lisa's mother, who battled breast cancer multiple times, serves as Lisa's motivation for the swim.
Though her first experience with the event was 11 years ago as a participant, Lisa's involvement has evolved. "A few years ago BCC discussed different ways to attract more Masters swimmers. Well, the only way to attract more Masters swimmers is to understand who Masters swimmers really are. This is where I came in," said Lisa. "They just started asking my advice." Soon thereafter Lisa began volunteering more of her time and efforts toward fundraising. "Yes, I do try to fundraise for the event, but growing the event, sharing the experience and getting more bodies in the water is really my goal."
Lisa, one of BCC's most successful fundraisers, says that this event is really "family friendly. Breast cancer is so prevalent in my family and in the community that I really wanted my son to have a good understanding of the disease and what he can do to help." Lisa's son has attended the event every year and last year was honored by BCC for his commitment. "At 11 he already has an idea of what the cause is all about," shared Lisa.
Lisa's efforts are great and expand far beyond swimming and into raising awareness and fundraising for the disease. Cape Cod has a greater occurrence of breast cancer than other parts of the United States, and Lisa is determined to help BCC understand why. BCC works closely with Silent Spring Institute to understand environmental causes of breast cancer. "It is kind of full circle. We are swimming in open water, nature, to raise money to help us understand the toll our daily activities take on our environment," said Lisa. "The pond we swim in is incredibly clean, clear and warm. It is perfect for a first-timer and a great way to start the swim season," exclaimed Lisa.
Lisa, who briefly participated in triathlons and other fitness activities, always returned to the water. "I can zone out, compete, focus or think, depending on my mood. No matter what, I leave feeling good. I love swimming in general, but I especially love this event because it is not just about me, but it is about my family, friends and the other women that are swimming for the same cause."
Breast Cancer Coalition Against the Tide is scheduled for June 20, 2009, and August 15, 2009. For more information visit www.bcc.org/swim
- Open Water
- Human Interest