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 here). 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
Photo and Curator Credit: Thank you to our Board Co-Chair Nora Cronin for curating historic black & white photos below provided by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation & Museum of the City of New York from Jackie Robinson Pool in Harlem to showcase the roots of Diversity In Aquatics in New York City. The Great Depression-era pool, was completed in 1936 and named for baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 1978 after his death in 1972. The pool was designated New York City landmark in 2007. If you have not visited Jackie Robinson Park to swim in the historic pool, you should check it out!