Kids who swim with the Chilliwack Stingrays do it for the fun of diving into the pool on a hot summer day.
But this week they had a greater purpose as they slipped into the water at the Rotary Pool Wednesday night (July 14).
Stingrays young and old rallied around a club alum who is going through a tough time. Seventeen-year-old Addison Johnston was recently diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia and just last week finished his first round of chemotherapy. He faces months of treatment, some of it involving costly medications not covered by the B.C. medical system.
With that in mind, Stingray swimmers gathered pledges from family and friends, and swam the length of Rotary Pool, back and forth for 60 exhausting minutes.
“Past coaches and swimmers came to donate and support Addison,” said the Stingrays’ Kyla Campbell. “We had past swimmers that have moved away driving hours to donate and swim. People just kept showing up. I’ve been in the club for over 10 years and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
At one point, Addison connected with the group by FaceTime from his hospital room in Vancouver.
Campbell said it was emotional moment.
“I think I may have been exhausted from the swim, but speaking with Addison and then being shown the generosity of the Stingray family, I was completely overwhelmed,” Campbell said. “Everyone swam their hearts out. I have never been more proud.”
When everything was tallied up, the swim-a-thon raised $5537.50.
Addison’s mom, Kristin, is taking time away from work while he goes through treatment, and she wrote a letter thanking the Stingrays for their support.
“We do not have enough words to express how thankful we are to be a part of this amazing family,” she wrote. “I have watched a lot of you grow up in this swim club, and the community and world is a better place because of people like you,” she wrote. “Addison wants to say thank you as well and he feels all of you cheering him on. There will be good days and bad days ahead, but on the bad days your support gets him through.”
Campbell said the Fraser Valley regional board has reached out asking how they to can help and other area clubs are hosting swim-a-thons too. Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has raised $7,270 toward a goal of $10,000.
“The GoFundMe is overwhelming,” Kristin said. “We are stunned and in awe of people’s generosity. We truly belong to an amazing community and have very generous, kind and loving friends. We are so grateful to every person who has donated and shared it.”
Addison, a student at G.W. Graham secondary school, is doing as expected. With chemo done, his blood levels have fallen and now he waits for them to come back up. That will be followed by more tests to see how well the chemotherapy did and plan next steps.
“Addison is in good spirits,” Kristin said. “He continues to show how strong and resilient he is.”