by Lori Ruhlman
Community units to welcome Lynne Cox: author, open water swimmer, motivational speaker.
A dream of bringing a record-breaking long distance swimmer and acclaimed author to Skaneateles Central Schools has expanded to involve and unite the entire community.
Motivational speaker Lynne Cox will be in Skaneateles the week of October 7 to meet with students and community members. She is the author of “Swimming to Antarctica” and several other books.
Cox will share stories about her incredible swimming achievements – including a swim across the Bering Strait that helped open relations between the US and Soviet Union in 1987. She first burst into the world spotlight when she swam across the English Channel at age 15 in 1972, shattering the men’s and women’s world records with a time of nine hours and 57 minutes. She has been swimming ever since.
As her story has spread throughout Skaneateles, many groups and organizations have joined in the effort to bring her here from her home in California and to make the most of her visit. Sponsored by the Skaneateles Education Foundation and the district PTCs, Cox has also drawn support from Rotary, the YMCA, Endurance Monster, Creekside Books, SkanRaces, AAUW, and AXA Advisors, Dr. Rob Kiltz & CNY Fertility Center.
Sandy Drancsak, a physical education teacher at State Street School, isn’t surprised at the widespread enthusiasm. “She seemed like such a good fit for the community,” Drancsak said.
More than an author, more than an athlete, Cox is an inspiration for all ages.
The idea of the visit started when some Skaneateles Middle School girls – now in 10th and 11th grades – read and loved her book “Swimming to Antarctica,” said Sharon O’Connell, middle school librarian. They went to Creekside to talk about it. They wanted to meet her … and it has been on my mind that I’d like her to come ever since.”
Later, an adult book group read the book. The women met at Susan Wulff’s cottage at Pine Bluff to discuss the book while their children were swimming in the clear waters of Skaneateles late. “We all loved the book – and it seemed the perfect fit for Skaneateles,” O’Connell said.
Cox will speak to fifth through 8th graders during the school day on October 10, and to the entire community at 7 p.m. that evening in the high school auditorium. Creekside Books and Coffee has joined the effort and is helping promote a community-wide read before her arrival. For exciting details, see www.creeksidecoffeehouse.com/community-read.
Delighted with the response in Skaneateles, Cox has lengthened her visit on both ends, so she can meet more people. She will arrive in time for a midnight swim from 9 p.m. to midnight on October 7 at the YMCA. (More details to follow!)
Drancsak, who is working on the Midnight Swim with the YMCA, is thrilled. “I am so excited about this because I know that after Lynne Cox leaves, the kids will realize how absolutely possible it is to reach a goal of any size,” she said. “What she writes about her goals and challenges and dreams is what we try to teach kids every day.”
The Midnight Swim has a “Dream Catcher” theme that encourages students to swim in teams and to set goals – funny or serious, and not necessarily related in any way to swimming – and to think of how they can reach those goals.
“Because so much of Lynne’s story is about her setting almost impossible goals, we’d like to encourage students –especially in 5th – 8th grades—but adults as community members, as well–to think about their own ‘impossible’ goals and to think about articulating ‘actionable steps’ to achieve them,” O’Connell explained.
In addition to encouraging reading, it is hoped that her visit will motivate students to dream, teach the importance of setting high goals, promote fitness and stress the importance of world peace.
The angle of world peace, and the fact that Cox is credited with helping to open communications between Russia and the United States, is what drew the Skaneateles Rotary Club to support this cause. Rotary works toward world peace in many ways, most visibly locally with the popular Youth Exchange Program.