Margaret Mary Health Foundation executive director Mary Dickey was floored when Caroline Storms told her she wanted to swim from Alcatraz Island across the bay to San Francisco to raise $10,000 for the nonprofit.
Dickey recalls, “She wanted to do something for an organization that would benefit a lot of people. I thought it was amazing and such a mature thing for a sophomore in high school.”
On Sept. 28, the Oldenburg Academy student will take part in the 11th Annual Alcatraz Classic: Swim with the Centurions™ 2013, sponsored by Water World Swim, Corte Madera, Calif. She imagines the race’s toughest part will be “getting in and going ... (That will) take the most courage.” The teen will be surrounded by members of the elite Alcatraz 100 Club who have completed the 1.25-mile swim at least 100 times.
As the daughter of Shawwn and Diana Storms focuses on the finish line near the flags at Aquatic Park, Caroline will use her best stroke, freestyle, “because it’s the easiest stroke to do for a long distance.”
She and her dad will leave for California on Thursday Sept. 26, and fly home on the Saturday night red eye. Before the Alcatraz Classic, the athlete will practice wearing her wet suit at a blocked-off beach area “just to get used to the cold water.”
Storms chose to raise dollars for MMHF because “I know some people on the board there. I know their kids. It’s a foundation that’s just starting off and I thought they could use a little help.” The director explains, “The money that is being raised by the foundation now is basically building an endowment for the future.”
“We’re just very pleased that she came to us and had the vision as a 15-year-old to understand how important” the foundation’s mission is. “It’s about insuring the long-term health and wellness of our community ... Our purpose is to make sure the hospital can continue to provide the quality of care and services ... in the future.”
Caroline already has experienced that care, briefly hospitalized for dehydration caused by the flu several years ago. She could wind up working at a hospital, aiming to become an anethesiologist or emergency room physician.
Family members are supportive. “They’re helping pay for a lot of the stuff, of course, and they’re really helping me with my fundraising.” Her dad sent an e-mail to friends that netted about $3,000, then Storms and Dickey mailed 500 letters to area businesses last week. The student notes, “It’s been a lot of hard work.”
The teen is almost halfway to her goal. The Web site www.mmhealth.kintera.org/carolineswimsalcatraz shows $3,540 has been given so far plus “somebody just sent a $500 donation,” according to Dickey.
Persons may contribute any amount. Donations by credit card can be made at the Web site. Tax-deductible checks made payable to the Margaret Mary Health Foundation may be mailed to Mary Dickey, MMHF, P.O. Box 226, Batesville, IN 47006.
Three of four sponsorship levels receive perks: Shark, $1,000, includes individual or company name/logo displayed on the back of Caroline’s wet suit (deadline Aug. 30), recognition on the Margaret Mary Health Facebook page, in its HealthLines quarterly publication and a newspaper ad thanking major donors; Lifeguard, $500, includes recognition in the quarterly publication and newspaper ad; Coach, $250, includes recognition in the quarterly publication; Swim Buddy, $100.
Those with questions may call the executive director at 933-5141.
The Greensburg native moved to Batesville when she was 4. Storms began her pool career at 5 with the Batesville Stingrays summer team. She recalls, “I hated swimming at first. I cried every time I got in the pool.” The girl learned strokes from Celeste Manriquez and T.J. Greene. “They were both really, really great coaches.”
At 10, when her swimming improved and she started placing first, “I realized I liked it.” Storms switched to the Cincinnati Marlins, which has summer and winter seasons over 10 months. She reports, “I do double swim teams in the winter,” competing for Oldenburg Academy and the Marlins. She also gets exercise playing golf for OA.
Mulling over the Alcatraz event, “I did a (2-mile) open water swim last summer” at an Ohio state park with some fellow Marlins. Because the water was murky, “you ran into something and you didn’t know what it was.” Some of the bumps turned out to be tree branches.
Her training is rigorous. During an August break from the Marlins, “I swim every other morning at 5:30 at the (Batesville) Memorial Pool.”
In September, she will attend school, arrive home for an hour, then her Mom or Dad will drive Storms and her two sisters (Eva, 8, and Allison, 11) to Cincinnati for Marlins practices four or five days a week, getting home around 10 p.m. Caroline is in the pool for two hours, then completes one hour of running, push-ups, sit-ups and other weight room exercises.
Once or twice a month Marlins meets are slated for weekends. “I swim anything my coaches put me in ... My least favorite event is probably the 200 (butter)fly. I really enjoy the 200 backstroke. I’m a decent sprinter,” but she finds swimming long distances boring.
The athlete has friends in this area and Cincinnati. “It makes it nice.” She enjoys participating in OA Student Council and going on sleepovers and shopping in the city.
Storms doubts she will continue swimming on a college team. “I thought about it,” but she knows pre-med courses are tough. “I don’t think I’ll be able to balance swimming and studying. I’ll probably do it on the side to keep in shape.”
Swimming competitively has allowed Storms to “meet a lot of great people ... It’s made me who I am.”
The St. Louis School graduate reflects, “It’s taught me some great life lessons along the way, besides just how to swim. To be determined – not give up on anything. It’s taught me dedication. You’ve got to put in work to get results. Be confident in what you can and can’t do.”
Before the student departs for this latest adventure, she intends to talk to Manriquez, who did similar Alcatraz swims in 2008 and 2011, to glean advice. Caroline Storms predicts, “I’ll approach it with the attitude (that) I’m not going to worry about anything. I just have to go out and swim it and do the best I can.”
Debbie Blank can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.