The Vistamar community prides itself on giving back and that’s just what one of Vistamar’s standout swimmers, Keiko ’18, has been doing. In her free time, she’s been hard at work on a community service project that will benefit the Weingart YMCA Wellness & Aquatic Center in Los Angeles.
Keiko, winner of three CIF Individual titles and numerous school swim records, has a passion for swimming that goes far beyond the pool. She felt that volunteering within the swim community would be the best use of her time.
“I enjoy volunteering,” she said. “In the past, I've volunteered coaching special needs swimmers with my club swim team, setting up apartments for kids exiting foster care, and assisting in the childcare center at the YMCA. But this year, I wanted my volunteering to have more impact and be closer to heart.”
She’s well aware that swimming can be an expensive sport that not all families can afford. When you total everything from swimsuits, goggles, pool time, etc., the costs add up. So she decided soliciting swim-related companies for equipment donations would be a simple way to give back to the community.
“In the beginning, I thought I could just call, email or snail mail companies and receive donations,” she remarked. But she hit an unexpected roadblock when she reached out to some of the larger swim companies.
“I discovered that many of the larger corporations like Speedo, TYR, Finis, Coppertone and Banana Boat have special programs and initiatives to which they [already] direct their donations of funds and goods,” she added. “So the bigger, swim-related companies donating to the Vistamar Service Project was not going to happen.”
For some, that would have been the end of the project, but for Keiko it meant simply thinking outside the box. That thinking led to Craig Eisenberg, the owner of The Swim Guy in Redondo Beach, Calif. He took the time to share with her a fundraising project he was doing with his son. That conversation led to Eisenberg not only donating to her project, but giving her several leads for more potential donations.
She also enlisted help from Monica Tucker, one of the fundraisers for her club team, Beach Cities Swimming.
“She [Monica] recommended that I use social media to connect with local companies to solicit donations. I had to set up a Facebook page. No one my age really uses Facebook. But businesses rely on Facebook to connect with older people,” she admitted.
When she started, her goal was to collect at least $10,000 in donations. To her surprise, inventory totaled nearly $30,000 in donations! A number she checked three times.
“It was insane,” she said of her final number, considering it nearly tripled her original goal.
Her initiative will undoubtedly impact a larger group of people, especially those tied to the Weingart YMCA which she strategically researched and eventually chose after considering other local organizations.
“Mr. [Jim] Drennen, Vistamar School’s Athletic Director, sent over a list and I looked at the Los Angeles YMCA’s map and reviewed the income of the people living near the YMCA’s and chose the Weingart location,” said Keiko.
What was her favorite part of the process? Easy. It was Aquatics Director at the Weingart YMCA Jessica Boyd’s reaction to the generous gift. Boyd told Keiko in an email that, “I may cry, this is such a blessing.”
While she admits it was challenging to balance school, swimming and following up with donors at the same time, she acknowledges it was well worth the effort. “It was a lot to accomplish in such a short period of time,” said Keiko. No doubt the members of the Weingart YMCA would agree.