Now in it’s second year in Sunnyvale, the Annual Abilities United Aquathon www.AbilitiesUnited.org is likely to be another record fundraising day on Saturday, September 10, 2011 at the California Sports Center, Sunnyvale Swim Complex, Fremont High School, 1283 Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road in Sunnyvale. The event is scheduled from 8:30 am – 1 pm. This fun-filled event raises money for Abilities United services for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities.
Abilities United’s new Corporate and Foundation Giving Officer, Jo Bailard, is managing the 33rd annual Aquathon which raises as much as $200,000 for the Palo Alto agency’s services for people with developmental disabilities. This year’s fundraising goal is $200,000. Collaborating with Ms. Bailard on this year’s event, which will be attended by over 400 swimmers and volunteers from throughout the Peninsula and South Bay, are Linda Chin and volunteer Vicki Yamaoka, of Los Altos. Joining Abilities United this year to present the event awards is KGO AM 810 Newstalk Radio personality, John Rothmann and former Olympic swimmer, Susan Roy. San Jose Sharks mascot, Sharkie will make his annual “splash”, delighting children and adults alike.
The hundreds of swimmers include employees from corporations throughout Silicon Valley, participants and staff at Abilities United programs, and local community residents. Long-time Abilities United supporter and Los Altos resident, Ann Hepenstal is the captain of the Intel Employees’ Team has been involved with the Aquathon for nearly 20 years: “Organizing an Aquathon team has brought me a lot of personal satisfaction. Through very little effort, I make a huge difference. I bring together employees from across our company for a morning of fun and fellowship. By doing so, I help Abilities United provide their programs enabling people with developmental disabilities lead the lives they choose.”
The Abilities United Aquathon epitomizes the vision of Abilities United, a world where all people; of all abilities; live, work, and play side-by-side with mutual respect for each individual’s unique contributions. Abilities United strives to be a model of how society can be barrier free to enable the full participation of people with disabilities and their families. The Aquathon is a community and team-building event where people of all walks of life, all ages and all abilities, swim side-by-side to raise money to help fund the training, education, and support that Abilities United provides to people with developmental and physical disabilities so they can lead the lives they choose.
One of the star Aquathon fundraisers is recent Sunnyvale resident Bill Hall, a retiree, who receives Independent Living Skills training from Abilities United. Bill began fundraising in 2006 when he went door-to-door in his community and generated nearly $1,000 in donations. Each year he has increased his fundraising dollars and this year, his personal fundraising goal is $1,200. How does Bill motivate people to donate? “I take the flyers to companies and ask if they would like to give to the disabled. I don’t actually ask for money, I leave it up to them. If they want to give $1 or $5, it doesn’t matter, whatever they want to give is good. “ Bill is very humble about his prowess as a fundraiser but his efforts warrant recognition. He has received the “Client Fundraising Award” for two consecutive years. Bill’s success may be closely related to his realistic expectations, “Raising money is a lot of work but everything you do, you have to put your heart into it and do the best you can. Each year is different, you just have to keep trying. Every time I do it I learn more and more. I’ve learned to go with the flow, and be thankful for what I get.”He further stated, “I feel good about raising money for the disabled. It’s for a good cause and I know it’s being well used.”
Among the 2,500 Bay Area residents who benefit from the fund raised at the Aquathon is Palo Alto resident Mike Seiders. As this year’s honorary swimmer, Mike will kick-off the event with the inaugural swim. Mike has a lifetime of big aspirations and an “I can figure it out” attitude. His personal goals have enabled him to progress through the Abilities United Early Intervention program graduating from the Palo Alto school system and Foothill Community College. As an adult, Mike has held various jobs through the Abilities United Employment Services program where he receives job placement and employment coaching. Today, Mike is an integral member of the Abilities United janitorial team and keeps the facilities clean and neat…all with a smile and positive work attitude.
Mike also learned to swim at the Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center. Once a year Mike and his family organize a “Big Mike” team and swim in the Abilities United Aquathon. This is their way of saying “thank you for being there for us” and, of course, is a great opportunity for Mike to show off his swimming skills. Michael’s mother, an Abilities United board member, states: “Abilities United provides vital support to my son. I cannot adequately express the importance of Abilities United to Mike’s long-term maturity, mental and physical health, and community socialization. Life has not always been easy, but Mike’s positive attitude and the support of this community make it seem so”.
Mike is the first one to say that he couldn’t achieve all his goals on his own. He values the help he has received from his parents, his teachers, his coaches, the community at large and Abilities United. As Mike says: “I’ve been with Abilities United a long time – since I rocked the crib. Now I’m out there, living on my own. Abilities United has helped me be who I am”.
Mike, along with his friends and family, are one of 50 teams scheduled to swim in the friendly, competitive, continuous swim relay to raise funds for Abilities United, a Palo Alto not-for-profit agency that champions people with developmental and physical disabilities.
Teams, made up of 6 to 8 people from all over the Bay Area, swim for 30-minute to raise funds. Corporate matches are added to team totals.
Sponsors of the Abilities United Aquathon including NVIDIA, Oracle, Lockheed Martin, MarketRiders, Webcor Builders, Intuit, Milk Pail Market of Mountain View, Montreux Equity Partners, Mulcahy Family Dentistry and SRI of Menlo Park. Media sponsors include KGO AM810 and the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online.