Hoping to raise the $60,000 needed to keep Berkeley public swimming pools open this winter, the United Pool Council, a Berkeley community group, is sponsoring a swim-a-thon fund raiser this Saturday at the King pool, 1700 Hopkins St.
Participating in the marathon will be upwards of 72 swimmers divided into three teams of 24 or more, with each individual swimmer swimming for an hour interval over the 24 hours of the event. The splashoff will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, with the last lap ending at 11 a.m. Sunday.
With city pools in danger of closing over the winter because of funding cutbacks, the Pool Council lobbied the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department and City Council to let them do their own fundraising to save several important programs at the two pools, Willard (Telegraph Avenue and Derby Street) and West (Addison and Browning streets).
Blythe Lucero, coach of Berkeley’s Adult Masters swim team and the main organizer working with the pool council to sponsor the event, says pool closures would severely affect participants in the year-round programs, including those in the disabled community with a special need for the strenuous exercise only swimming can offer.
“Fitness, whether is be competitive swimming or lap swimming, is a year-round thing, it’s important to make it routine,” said Lucero.
Each swimmer participating in the swim-a-thon was responsible for finding donors that would sponsor them for at least up to $100, and some are pulling in up to $1,000 dollars. Several corporate sponsors have signed on, including Berkeley Sports and GU, local producer of an energy food product.
Lucero aimed to raise at least $20,000 dollars through the event, an amount many thought out of reach. Now however, Lucero says that with all the support, the event might go beyond the original goal.
In the meantime, the Pool Council has been raising other funds by working with the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront department to expand the programming at existing pools. They have also developed a plan to rent pool time out to private schools and other groups during non-use hours.
Lucero says that everyone is really excited about the event and all have the common goal of ensuring that Berkeley’s public pools remain open.
“I just want the pools to work,” said Lucero.
For more information or to sign up and swim, call Blythe Lucero, 235-7018.