By THOMAS P. CALDWELL, LACONIA DAILY SUN
ALEXANDRIA — U.S. Navy SEALs will be parachuting from helicopters into Newfound Lake and demonstrating their hostage rescue capabilities and K9 skills in support of a fundraiser for veterans that will bring upwards of 140 swimmers to Wellington State Park on Friday.
Among those present at Swim With a Mission will be SEAL Rick Kaiser, of Black Hawk Down fame, who twice led convoys into Mogadishu, having to shoot their way in and out. Another SEAL who will be there is now head of astronauts at NASA, according to Philip Taub who, with his wife, Julie, organized the event.
To raise money for the veterans’ organizations, individual swimmers will compete in 10K and 5K swims, while teams will take part in a 10-mile relay swim early that morning. Public events begin at 11, when everyone will have a chance to meet the elite Sea, Air, and Land special operatives. The SEAL demonstrations will begin at 2 p.m.
Philip Taub said he and his wife have spent time on Newfound Lake for 30 years, and they have been very involved with charities in the past, but it was after the last presidential primary that they decided it was time to start their own charity event.
“In the last presidential election cycle, we went to a lot of town hall meetings, and one thing that struck me after all the candidates had left was that we’d heard a lot about the struggles of veterans. I felt like there were some very good organizations that do good work for veterans, but they don’t have enough people or enough money,” he said.
Taub noted that runners and cyclists have a lot of fundraising opportunities, but swimmers do not traditionally do fundraising. And with the Timberman and Mooseman triathlons no longer taking place in the region, there was an opening for a new type of fundraiser, he said.
“Newfound Lake is one of cleanest lakes in the country and, for swimmers, we thought we could attract some of the best in the country,” he said. “We hope to create a long-term event that makes the Lakes Region a destination, and raises money at the same time.”
Proceeds of this year’s event will go to the Bridge House homeless shelter and veterans’ advocacy organization in Plymouth, Veterans Count of the Lakes Region, and the Navy SEAL Museum in Fort Pierce, Florida.
Each swimmer collects pledges through the swimwithamission.com website, with a goal of raising $500 per swimmer. Some teams have collected thousands of dollars in donations.
Each swimmer or team has an opportunity to make a statement on the website, and Cyndi Kimball posted: “As a Coast Guard veteran, I am drawn to this event that helps veterans and honors their sacrifices. Partnering with The Summit Project, I will carry a stone in memory of Army Captain Benjamin Keating, who died November 26, 2006, while serving as executive officer of A Troop, 3-71 Cavalry, Task Force Spartan, 10th Mountain Division in Kamdesh, Afghanistan.
“I have been fortunate to swim parts of Newfound Lake for years with my family, but my connection to the lake is more profound. My mom grew up summering here, and the cottages she stayed in as a child are still on the lake. She passed away at her home near the lake last year. She LOVED to tell people that I was a swimmer. My dad had more confidence in my abilities than I had actual ability. Both would have thought I'm a little crazy, but they always supported my endeavors.
“On July 14th I swim to raise money for veterans issues. I swim to honor Captain Ben Keating. I swim for my parents' memory.”
Taub said there will be about 80 kayakers providing support for the swimmers during the event.
Swimmer registration begins at 5:30 a.m., with a pre-race meeting for swimmers and paddlers at 6:30, including a moment of silence to honor veterans and the playing of the National Anthem. A Navy SEAL and long-distance swimmer George Brunstad will speak, followed by a bagpiper playing.
The 5K swim will begin at 7, the 5K at 7:10, and 10-mile relay at 7:20.
For the free public event at 11 a.m., there will be food donated by the Common Man, Polly’s Ice Cream, the Rustic Crust and Sam Adams Beer, Coca-Cola Products and Millyard Coffee.
There will be a bouncy house for children as well as 50-50 drawing and a raffle for prizes that include a Gronkowski jersey and Red Sox tickets. Performing live music will be Madison Rising.
Also on the schedule are award presentations named in honor of SCPO Daniel R. Healy, Navy SEAL (5K) and Jeremiah Fitzgibbon, world champion swimmer/triathlete (10K). Triolo’s Bakery will provide a cake.
Prior to the SEAL demonstrations, members will be available for questions and answers. Sarah Mousseau, Miss NH USA, will sing the National Anthem.
Taub has high hopes for the event, noting that the Pan-Mass Challenge and the Boston Marathon began with only a few participants. Swim With a Mission, with 140 participants, is a success already, he said, and includes naval sea cadets who hope to join the special forces.
“The logistics are a lot,” Taub said, “but my wife is a rock star. She’s really good at putting events together. I’m the ideas guy, and everyone runs around trying to make them happen.”
A contingent of Navy SEALs will land at Wellington State Park in Alexandria on Friday as part of Swim With a Mission, a swimming fundraiser to benefit veterans organizations. (Courtesy photo)
- Written by Tom Caldwell
- Category: Local News
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