We are the Night Train Swimmers, an average group of swimmers, passionate about open water swimming. Ordinary people with ordinary lives who love to swim.
The goal of our swims is to help promote causes in which we firmly believe. Through this we hope to make our “ordinary” into something “extraordinary” for those in need or who are less fortunate. For me it's a privilege and an honor to be a part of this group.
Because one of our founding members, Vito Bialla, is a former marine, Night Train Swimmers have been active in military charities. Past swims have raised money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Another cause we support is a swimming program that teaches children to swim in areas that suffer some of the highest rates of drowning in the country.
However, last Friday evening our fundraising efforts became truly significant at our black tie event organized by Vito and keynoted by Congressional Medal of Honor and most decorated Navy SEAL, Michael E. Thornton. Accompanying Mr. Thornton was Marine Master-Sergeant William "Spanky" Gibson who lost his leg in combat, only to return to his duties in Iraq a few years later as an amputee.
In addition to delighting our guests with his speech Mr. Thornton also bestowed upon each of the swimmers his personal congratulatory medal (challenge coin) commemorating his service and national honors received. I’ll never forget the moment Mr. Thornton surprised me with this great honor as he passed his coin to me during our handshake.
This has been especially touching to our members who have family members who have served in the military and it brought tears to my eyes as I took a moment to remember my late Grandfather who served in WWII and passed away just 2 months ago.
Through my friend Tom Callinan and his close friendship with former marine and GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons, we have raised a breathtakingly and inspirational one MILLION dollars for the Semper Fi Fund from The Parsons Foundation managed by Bob's wife Renee Parsons. This is in addition to other generous charitable donations in excess of two hundred thousand dollars that have come in as we make our final swim preparations. And 4 days later, as I reflect on the generosity of others for Semper Fi Fund (and donations continue to flow), I am still completely and utterly overwhelmed.
This is because this fundraising has come largely on a novel and unprecedented open water record relay swim we will be attempting on September 23rd from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Our swim will follow traditional English Channel relay rules of each swimmer swimming for one hour in rotation through the duration of the 7-8 day swim with no wetsuit.
And so, while our relay swim was initially good cocktail party conversation, we have been blown away by how much a swim that many consider crazy, can do to raise awareness for a cause we are promoting.
We are proof that anything is possible, and we just gave you over 1,000,000 reasons why this is so. WOO!