The Williams family of Rochester has done something quite amazing: they have raised over $6,000 for the Buzzards Bay Coalition (BBC) as Team Splash. On June 22 they, along with 276 other supporters of the BBC mission, entered the waters of the outer harbor at New Bedford’s south-end and swam towards Fairhaven emerging at Fort Phoenix. This was the twenty-sixth year of the BBC’s annual Buzzards Bay Swim.
This event was initiated to heighten the public’s awareness of the necessity of protecting Buzzards Bay, a vital natural resource that serves a vast swarth of Massachusetts’ coastline. While the BBC has worked diligently for more than 30 years protecting the bay, wetlands, and associated resource areas against over-development, nitrogen pollution, hazardous chemicals, and governmental neglect, the need to engage the community in the fight to protect it all still continues.
And that is the inspiration for the entire Williams’ clan.
Mom, known to most as Rebecca, shared, “I was not a strong swimmer. I sort of relearned and improved my stroke through practice.” She made swimming in the 2016 event a previous New Year’s resolution and focused on making it a reality. Her husband, Roger, has been a longstanding volunteer at BBC activities, which is how Rebecca first caught the swim bug. “I learned about the swim through Roger as well as the work of the BBC.” Her New Year’s resolution brought her to the Gleason Family YMCA where she met Mel Dyer, her swim instructor and trainer. She credits Dyer with being instrumental in her being able to achieve her goal – just keep swimming. “It was a real win-win,” she said, “… achieving my goal helps the BBC reach their goal.”
Entering the water this year with Rebecca was her daughter Xan Williams.
“I grew up swimming as recreation,” Xan said, “I’m more of a runner.” She said that she too trained at the Y completing 38 laps each session, a distance about equal to the 1.2 mile open water swim. “It takes about 45 minutes to complete it in the pool,” she confirmed, while the open water swim may take about an hour.
Previously, Xan was her mother’s Kayak Safety Squad team member. The BBC encourages first-time swimmers or those who feel the need to be accompanied across the outer harbor to have a dedicated volunteer whose encouragement can’t be overrated and whose emergency assistance is available, if necessary.
According to the BBC, the start of the swim coincides with the incoming tide; thereby, giving the swimmers a bit of an edge or push towards Fairhaven versus trying to stay on course fighting the outgoing pull towards the ocean. This year there was a bit of a head wind.
After the race, Rebecca reported that, “It was choppy out there; the ocean kept slapping you in the face.” But the chuckle that accompanied the comment tells the bigger story – it was a major accomplishment for the mother-daughter team.
For the Williams, the goal of securing funds for the BBC is the driving force of the swim. “We are currently the top team fundraisers,” Rebecca stated prior to the swim, which was confirmed after the swim was completed.
To accomplish their fundraising goal, the Williams reached out primarily to their personal contacts, family, friends, professional associates, and at least two corporate sponsors. They sent out letters telling their story and were pleased with the support they received.
The women’s training and the associated sacrifice that it requires was rewarded as Rebecca completed her swim in 56 minutes and Xan made it to Fairhaven in 41.51 minutes.
And what about next year? Well for Rebecca, she’s already formulating plans, “After last year’s swim I thought I would call it quits, but then Xan stepped up to join me so I couldn’t say NO!” She shared that both swimming and fundraising has been fun to do as a family, but, “I think we may expand our team next year. That will change things up and keep it fresh.”
As an encouragement to anyone thinking about trying the event, Rebecca wants you to know, “If I can do it – you can.” She said to start slowly, build up one’s confidence, and of course, “Enjoy the ride,” or should we say SPLASH.
Update: The final count for Team Splash was $6,350. Swimmers raised $145,000. The BBC’s goal was $187,000. If that sum is achieved before July 31, an anonymous donor has pledged another $50,000.
Visit www.savebuzzardsbay.org to learn more about the BBC’s work and fundraising events.
By Marilou Newell