It was a balmy 51 degrees for the 5th Annual Tampa Bay Frogman Swim, not the warmest on record – and a challenge for the 200 swimmers who completed the 3.1-mile cold-water swim on January 19, 2014.
This year's swim has raised approximately $270,000 for the Navy SEAL Foundation (and you can still donate via the Frogman website). In the last four years, the event has raised over half a million dollars for the foundation, in addition to more than $30,000 raised the first year for injured SEAL Dan Cnossen.
The Frogman event began with a high school student who dreamed of becoming a SEAL. In talking with his mentor (a former SEAL), he conceived of a long-distance January swim to challenge himself and get a glimpse of what a SEAL faces in training. Within a few weeks, the swim had morphed into a fundraiser for Cnossen, who had lost both legs in Afghanistan. (Four years and several surgeries later, Cnossen is doing well. He recently won silver in the biathlon event at the International Paralympic Committee Nordic Skiing World Cup.)
The first swim for Cnossen was so successful that the participants saw an opportunity to create an annual fundraiser to support the Naval Special Warfare community, including injured soldiers and the families left by those we lose every year. And thus, an annual event was born.
2014 Tampa Bay Frogman
Nineteen-year-old Thomas O’Connor – who is aspiring to be a Navy SEAL himself one day - won this year's Frogman in 1:02:16. He was quickly followed by 38-year-old Matthew Getty (1:04:04) and Chad Kalocinski (1:05:42).
This event is so much more than a swim or a fundraiser. The Frogman began with an early morning ceremony where the names of the 4 SEALs lost in 2013 were read aloud. Navy cadets raised flags for each during the Cadet Ceremony.
"From every volunteer to swimmer it's obvious that all involved are at the event for those injured and fallen SEALs and their families," says Abbey Heimensen, with MarineMax. MarineMax employees volunteer year-round to help organize the event. "Everyone has their own personal reasons as to why it touches them emotionally and spiritually, but at the core, everyone is volunteering or swimming for those brave men that have served and their families."
"The volunteers make this a great event," O'Connor says. "We're thrilled to have so many people involved for the right reasons. Everything just works more smoothly, and we have more fun." He notes that MarineMax volunteers help with everything from planning and logistics to manning the boats and picking up swimmers who are unable to finish. (Although all of the swimmers finished this year!)
"Nearly 40 people from our corporate office and Clearwater store volunteered this year," Heimensen says. "Despite the early morning start times (many of us were up at 4:30 a.m.), the event is more rewarding than we can possibly express. A good indicator of this is the number of returning volunteers from last year! We have amazing people that work in our company."
Want to be Involved in the 2015 Tampa Bay Frogman?
The next Tampa Bay Frogman will take place in January 2015. If you want to sign up for information so you can swim, provide kayak assistance, volunteer or donate, subscribe to the group's email newsletter. You can also get more information and see pictures from this year's event on their Facebook.
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