UPDATED AND REVISED ON SATURDAY, JUNE 19, 2021:
Juneteenth 2021 (June 19, 2021) Statement:
As we commemorate Juneteenth, we remain committed to serving those marginalized and historically excluded from aquatics, particularly people of color.
We commemorate Juneteenth with our commitment to community service. In our 30 years, we have continuously engaged in community service to support the most vulnerable in our community. We have raised over $120,000 through our Annual One Hour Swim Challenge Fundraiser since the winter of 2014-2015 alone, primarily benefiting LGBTQ+ community-based charities such as the Alliance for Positive Change (formerly the “AIDS Service Center”). At the same time, rising pool rental rates and challenges with finding rental pool space forced us to significantly increase our rates in the past decade. COVID pandemic lockdown further exacerbated our financial challenges when we shut down completely for over 6 months. By 2017, these strategic challenges made it difficult for us to keep our rates affordable, run our clinics, and offer our trial memberships to new members. We knew that we could do more to make aquatics more inclusive and diverse.
In 2018, a group of dedicated team members started brainstorming actionable ways to effect change as a follow up to internal conversations in our organization about diversity in aquatics. We realized that our financial challenges and increased rates erected greater barriers to marginalized and underserved populations participating in our programs, particularly people of color. In 2019, we started developing a strategic plan for new fundraising strategies, including grant funding, to sustainably offer our clinics with the intention of providing no-cost and low-cost programming for the underserved. In the past 2 years, we have been awarded over $10,000 in grants, two of which were specifically earmarked for clinics. Earlier this year, we used a $2,500 grant from Heritage of Pride to fully subsidize the costs for our intermediate swim clinics (“Low Pressure Zone” or “LPZ”). Later this year, we will be using a $4,160 grant from U.S. Masters Swimming to substantially subsidize the costs for our beginners’ swim clinics (using the USMS Adult Learn-to-Swim curriculum). We thank both organizations for their generous support of our programming. We are proud to be able to offer no-cost and low-cost programming for the underserved despite the challenges with the pandemic.
Despite the financial challenges of the past decade, we have continuously provided financial assistance to our members to participate in our regular programming through financial assistance programs such as our Paul Fortoul Fellowship Program established in 2007. Since 2007, we have raised over $25,000 for our Paul Fortoul Fellowship Program Fund alone, and we have awarded almost $20,000 in financial assistance to our members. We want to thank all of the donors over the years that have helped us make our financial assistance programs a success. Our continuous financial assistance program would not be possible without this invaluable support.
We are excited to be of service to our community and increase diversity in aquatics through our commitment to community service. We realize that we could only have achieved these successes through our membership’s dedication to diversity, community service and fundraising. Thank you to everyone that has supported our community service programming over the past 3 decades, especially our programming for those historically excluded from aquatics. We know that there is so much more work to do to create welcoming spaces in the aquatics community for people of color in New York City (more details about our work in community building, community services, and community engagement below). If you are interested in learning more about our programs, including volunteering to support our community service programs, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community and aquatics community in New York City, but our community building & community service is not just confined to the pool. In our early years after our founding in 1990, we used the One Hour Swim Fundraising Drive to raise money for teammates to pay medical bills during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and we continue to fundraise for the most vulnerable in our community every year. In that spirit, we have issued a statement in support of the 2020 #BlackLivesMatter protests. We also sent a joint open letter to the Speaker of the New York City Council and a joint open letter to all 5 New York City Borough Presidents on July 14, 2020 voicing our concerns in response to New York Magazine’s article about Peter Stein and New York City public pools, beaches and lifeguards published on June 23, 2020. We highly encourage everyone to reach out to our elected officials (the NYC Department of Investigations, the New York City Council, the New York City Public Advocate’s Office, and the New York City Mayor’s Office) to express concern and demand a full investigation, as well as to report any municipal employees that exhibit inappropriate behavior. If you would like additional information about our dialogue with the city, feel free to reach out to us at: email@example.com.
History & Background
We are a masters aquatics program for adults (18 years of age or older) which requires memberships with U.S. Masters Swimming (locally governed by the Metropolitan Local Masters Swimming Committee (New York City Area)), USA Water Polo, USA Diving and USA Synchronized Swimming. We are a member organization of the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics Association, which is a full member organization of the Federation of the Gay Games.
Since our founding, we have built relationships with key partners such as Heritage of Pride (NYC Pride), New York City Public Parks, New York City Public Schools (Stuyvesant High School, etc.), Alliance for Positive Change, City University of New York (John Jay College, Baruch College, Lehman College, etc.), Long Island University, Columbia University, Rutgers University, Convent of the Sacred Heart School, Asphalt Green, LGBTQ+ Center in Manhattan, Brooklyn Community Pride Center, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, CIBBOWS (Coney Island Brighton Beach Open Water Swimmers), Red Tide Masters Swimming Team, Front Runners New York (Running Club), OutCycling, Cheer New York, Gotham Cheer, and Team New York (NYC LGBT Sports Network). As we do not own a pool, we have always rented pools for our programming. Thank you to all of our key partners that have hosted our practices, workouts, clinics, scrimmages and competitions for the past 3 decades.
Every year since our founding, we have participated in Heritage of Pride’s annual event for New York City Pride. We have held fundraisers for our community through various initiatives, including our Annual One Hour Swim Fundraising Drive for the past 30 years. With our three decades of fundraising, we have built a strong relationship with the Alliance for Positive Change and number of other local LGBTQ+ charities and service organizations. We have also volunteered to support other community service and community building initiatives over the years with various service organizations, such as the LGBTQ+ Center in Manhattan, Brooklyn Community Pride Center, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis .
We have held our social events and fundraisers in a host of bars, clubs, restaurants and event venues in New York City such as Boxers, Atlas Social Club, Superfine, Union Theological Seminary, Industry, Elmo’s Restaurant, Therapy, Henrietta Hudson, Copacabana, Hudson Terrace, Slate, and Dave & Busters, just to name a few.
We greatly appreciate our amazing aquatics community and our LGBTQ+ partners for making us a pillar in the LGBTQ+ athletic community for the past 3 decades. We especially want to thank Heritage of Pride (NYC Pride) for their generous support through their various grant programs for over a decade.
For more information about sponsorships, partnerships and volunteer opportunities to support our community service and community building, contact our Event Planning Committee here.