He first heard about the event through his swim team, the MetroWest Aquatic Club, and thought that if everyone else was going to go swim in the ocean, he wanted in, too.
Despite being a competitive swimmer, Marco had never competed in a saltwater race. On top of that, the 1.2-mile Swim distance was much longer than his usual race length of 800 meters (about half a mile). To ready himself, he enlisted the help of his swim coach and fellow team members, and practiced swimming in the closest body of water to his home: iconic Walden Pond, which inspired Henry David Thoreau and served as the birthplace of the conservation movement in America.
For Marco, swimming 1.2 miles in open water was not the most daunting aspect of the Swim. Rather, it was the fundraising. Swimmers are only required to raise a minimum of $150 – but at just 12 years old, Marco set a goal of raising $1,000. Although he was a bit worried about fundraising the full amount, Marco believed in himself, understanding that “the higher you aspire, the higher you reach.”
To get started, he emailed the link to his Swim fundraising page to his relatives, most of whom live outside of Massachusetts. He also went door-to-door talking to his neighbors and distributed fliers at local businesses. Inspired by Marco’s philanthropy and mindfulness at such a young age, these family and community members contributed the largest portion of donations to his Swim.
“I told [everyone] about the pollution and the factors made by people that influence the habitat, like oil spills,” Marco said. “It was nice to see so many people rally behind a cause that did not affect them. For example, my relatives in Wisconsin and Peru donated, and some of them did not know what Buzzards Bay was.”
As of the day of the Swim on June 25, 2016, Marco had surpassed his goal and raised a grand total of $1,025 – one of only 25 swimmers to raise over $1,000 last year. Marco and his teammates also found success on the water, winning the Quicks Award for the fastest youth team.
But because Marco had never seen Buzzards Bay before, swimming in it wasn’t exactly what he pictured when he was practicing along the wooded shores of Walden Pond. He didn’t realize that Buzzards Bay was home to so many people, with a busy shipping channel located within view of where he swam. “I thought there were going to be forests and beaches with no one there and not many houses,” he said. “When bad things like oil spills happened, I thought it was just random.”
Through his experience at the Buzzards Bay Swim last summer, Marco was inspired to swim again this year. He now knows that the Bay needs our help to protect it, and so his goal this year is to “raise awareness of an ocean habitat that is in danger from many man-made pollutants that can destroy it.”
Marco has some encouragement for anyone who might be hesitating to participate in the Swim due to the fundraising requirement: “Just go out there and do it! It’s a hugely rewarding swim, and it’s also a lot of fun – you can hang out at the beach with your friends and eat pancakes. It’s worth getting up early for.” To fundraise, Marco suggests starting with friends and relatives. “If you’re super nervous [to talk to people], go out and hang up flyers.”
Join Marco and hundreds of other swimmers at the 24th annual Buzzards Bay Swim on Saturday, June 24. Sign up now!
The Buzzards Bay Swim is a Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Series event, presented nationally by Toyota. The SPLASH Series engages local citizens in recreational use of our waterways to celebrate access to clean water. Event sponsors also include Amica Insurance, Anderson Insulation, YMCA Southcoast, and Fiber Optic Center.