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Style Magazine

Swim for Life

May 26, 2011 06:15AM ● By Style

Photo by Dante Fontana

This summer’s swim season is kicking off with the second annual “Swim for Life” event to benefit SAFELY OUT.

Swimmers of all ages and abilities will be taking the plunge on Saturday, June 25 at the Folsom Aquatic Center. The event is a swim-a-thon in which participants are encouraged to collect pledges from friends, family members, businesses and neighbors for each lap they swim. The cause is SAFELY OUT, a practical effort to ensure that vulnerable citizens – frail seniors, young children and disabled persons – are protected when a disaster strikes.

It’s a timely, lifesaving effort in light of this year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. “If we learned anything from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and of course the terrible disaster in Japan, it’s that we must be better equipped to ensure the vulnerable among us can evacuate safely,” says Gary Dietrich, founder of Citizen Voice, the organization behind SAFELY OUT.  

The project was launched on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans and the surrounding areas. “We have partnered with the Red Cross Sacramento Sierra Chapter to enable everyone to be ‘first responders’ in a major disaster,” Dietrich affirms. All funds raised from the Swim for Life event will be used to develop and distribute SAFELY OUT Kits to at-risk households in the Sacramento region and beyond. The kit is used as a notification and tracking system when residents must evacuate their homes. The signature piece of the kit is a door hanger with one side bright red in color and the alert message “NEED HELP.” The other side is green, assuring the home’s occupant has been taken “SAFELY OUT” and includes information on where he or she was taken to shelter.  Other elements in the kits are a refrigerator magnet book to record essential contact information and a SAFELY OUT™ storage bag for keeping spare medicines and medical insurance documents safe inside the refrigerator, a place which is air tight, water tight and fire resistant.

The man behind the goggles and the achievement of Swim for Life is Folsom resident Bill Romanelli (pictured above). Having been a supporter of Citizen Voice – a group that helps citizens to get involved in the public arena – for a number of years, Romanelli decided it was time to take action himself. He came up with the idea of a swim-a-thon and brought Dietrich on board. “For last year’s pilot event, I resolved to ‘Swim 10K to Raise $10K’ and I was going to do it alone,” he explains.  “But I realized it would be much more exciting to make it an event the community could enjoy as well as a media celebration.”

For the second annual Swim for Life, the organizers have kicked it up a notch. The swim-a-thon will include “floatie” races with local celebrities, live music, sponsor booths and prize giveaways for all who attend, even just to watch. The registration fee is $25 per swimmer, or participants can pledge to raise at least $50 in donations; every $10,000 raised provides 1,000 new SAFELY OUT Kits.

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