By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Long-time USA Swimming corporate partner Phillips 66 has been a sponsor since 1973 and involved in the sport overall for seven decades. Today, Phillips 66 believes they can improve lives through energy, and in that spirit, usaswimming.org is highlighting swimmers of all levels who have benefited from Phillips 66's contribution and chosen to give back to the sport of swimming or to their community.
Frank Dehoney, head coach of the Twin Falls, Idaho, Magic Valley Marlins Swim Club, teaches the importance of altruism in his fourth-grade class.
As part of the lesson, he took his students to the Valley House, the community homeless shelter for families, and while there, learned there were 32 homeless children living there.
Knowing that the members of his swim club read a lot of books and would often talk about them during practice, he asked the kids to bring their favorite books to share with a homeless child – and that started a club-wide book drive.
“Some brought books that had been read to them; some brought their favorite book recently read,” Dehoney said. “Many mothers brought the books their children had outgrown. Our goal was to help out those less fortunate – for our kids to personally make a decision as to how to help and to connect with another kid through a book.
“The kids had ownership of the way they wanted to help because they chose the book to be donated. Some brought in gently used books they had read, while others bought new books.”
Over a three week period and under the direction of the team’s Parent Board, they got the word out via email and Facebook and coaches talked up the drive at practice – leading to many discussions of what the best books are and why.
Some of the favorite titles kids and families donated included books from Dr. Seuss, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Fahrenheit 451, The Giver, Tale of Two Cities, Captain Underpants and Freak the Mighty, among many others.
In total, Marlin swimmers across the valley gathered over 500 books, which were donated to Valley House.
At the same time they held the book drive, the club also orchestrated a canned food drive for the local Knights of Columbus soup kitchen. The Knights then used the food donations to create food baskets for needy families in the area.
The team collected the books and food during its Time Achievement Meet/Christmas Party prior to Christmas Day.
“We donated the books and food instead of exchanging gifts,” Dehoney said. The kids were over the top excited and eager to talk about their book especially if it meant missing a set. Great fun was had by all. Everybody was very supportive, very eager to share and help out.
“The kids were so proud of what they brought, the books and food. We heard about it pretty much continuously on deck, even the week after.”
While this is the first time the club has worked with these organizations, Dehoney said the response was so positive from everyone involved that he anticipates they will continue supporting these and other organizations in their community.
One such effort they are currently in the early stages of involves a read-off with the local community college baseball team. The month-long challenge measures the number of minutes read by each team with the team reading the least minutes donating time, talents or treasure (money) to a local organization.
The intent is to call attention to reading and athletics and to make a connection between the two communities – to advance the idea that the Marlins Swim Team is about the whole child. Dehoney said he hopes to begin the program in early February.
“Yes, I think we will continue to be involved with altruistic projects and will continue to seek opportunities to support literacy/swimming connections,” he said. “I believe kids want to help. They need it brought to conscious awareness that they have very good lives and others do not. They just need a mechanism. I believe all we need to do is provide them an opportunity to do good, and they will jump on it.”