It’s not very often you hear about a nonprofit that gives away full scholarships by the dozen, but there’s one out there just for people with physical disabilities that is a must know. It is the Swim with Mike organization, and they’ve given away over $20 million in scholarship money to former athletes who have become paralyzed or have a disability through an injury. From former high school hockey players to Olympic-level cyclists, they’ve changed the lives of hundreds of people, many who have an SCI.
The story of how Swim with Mike began started with your “usual” motorcycle accident, but it did not begin with your usual person. Mike Nyeholt is the reason it all began. He was a college swimmer at the University of Southern California on his way to the Olympics when in 1981, he was paralyzed when he crashed his motorcycle. The swimming community came to his side, organizing a fundraiser called Swim for Mike, to help raise money for Mike to cover expenses he could not. Mike, however, was more interested in helping others and asked his friends if they could come together again the following year to raise money for others like him. And that is how Swim with Mike began.
At the time the organization began, there was no ADA and almost no scholarships for people with spinal cord injuries. They began to make a powerful impact right away. Since its inception, the vast amounts of money they’ve been able to raise have transformed people’s lives. The stories from past and current scholarship recipients will make you smile, cry, and be amazed at how far-reaching their organization really is, helping students in 30+ colleges in the United States. All former and current recipients, totaling 200 students, can be found on their website. Each one of their stories is shared and we recommend reading them all.
Swim with Mike is able to raise their funds through multiple fundraisers each year. Their biggest fundraiser each year is the original Swim with Mike event held at the University of Southern California pool in April. This event brings out thousands of supporters, including the student body, who raise money and take part in fun contests all day like the belly flop contest and relay races. There are also speeches from participants, friends of Mike who’ve been there since the beginning and Mike himself as well, who shares his story with the crowd.
A past participant who’s shared his story is David Van Wagner. He is a former swimmer who broke his neck, and he was able to attend college at the University of Texas at Austin and received a Ph.D. in Engineering thanks to scholarships provided by Swim with Mike. He is now a successful engineer with an oil refinery company. That is a success story that was only possible through Swim with Mike and the thousands of people who’ve given to the organization. Other notable injured former athletes helped by the organization include Jack Jablonski, Trish Downing, Victoria Arlen, Zach Collie, Cody Unser, and Patrick Ivison. Click here to see their current scholarship recipients.
If you’re going to be in San Diego next month and would like to attend their annual fundraiser, the annual Swim with Mike event will be April 27th. For more information, check out the Swim with Mike event page! Every dollar makes a difference.
To apply for a Swim with Mike scholarship, apply via this link (application deadline is May 1st).
** This post was originally published on https://www.spinalcord.com/blog/swim-with-mike