The Ottawa Rideau Speedeaus, an LGBTQ swim club, has been helping aquatic athletes reach their personal and competitive swimming goals for years.
Now, the club’s upcoming Swim-EAU-thon fundraiser is expected to generate $12,000 for two local organizations that serve Ottawa’ LGBTQ community. The event will take place on April 5 at the Centre Aquatique Paul-Pelletier at in Gatineau.
For the fourth consecutive year, the club is hoping that what they do in the pool can make a difference in the community.
Members of the Speedeaus will be participating in a 1.5-kilometre swim and asking their friends, family, and colleagues to donate. About 30 to 40 athletes are expected to participate in this year’s event.
Swim-EAU-thon organizer Rémi de Champlain says Pink Triangle Services, a Centretown-based advocacy organization for sexual-orientation acceptance and gender diversity, will be one of the two beneficiaries of the fundraiser.
Donations will also go to le Bureau regional d’action SIDA, a Gatineau-based organization that supports those living with HIV/AIDS.
De Champlain began the event four years ago out of a desire to help the community.
“It’s important for the swimmers to be giving back,” says de Champlain. “Other gay swim teams were already doing this.”
De Champlain says it’s as much about having a good time as it is about charity.
“It’s a fun social event, they don’t race. They do it to have fun!” says de Champlain. “There’s some music, and there’s snacks. Afterwards, there is a barbeque at my place. It’s a nice time, and the swimmers feel they’ve done something good.”
The impact of the event is substantial and the past three Swim-EAU-thons have raised a total of $37,000.
Pink Triangle Services, which began partnering with the Swim-EAU-thon last year, has found the donations especially helpful.
Claudia Van den Heuvel, executive director of PTS, says donations from the event go towards funding the counselling services that the organization offers.
Van den Heuval says most organizations offering counselling have long wait lists and charge about $100 per counselling session.
Those counsellors are usually not specialized in LGBTQ issues and may be unable to relate to some of the problems being faced by their clients, she notes.
The counselling offered by PTS is often subsidized up to 85 per cent per session, allowing the most vulnerable people to have access, says Van den Heuval.
“Most services at PTS are very underfunded,” says Van den Heuval. “When we have community organizations like the Ottawa Rideau Speedeaus partner with us, it goes a long way.”