While most youngsters look forward to summer break for the luxury of sleeping until noon every day, Thursday morning a special group of kids were gathered at Newbridge Road Pool bright and early to swim for charity.
The Town of Hempstead started the event, dubbed the Swim-A-Cross, four years ago. The Nassau County Chapter of the American Red Cross had contacted the town to get children involved in their fundraising.
Several hundred children represented local teams from pools including Averill of Elmont, Echo of West Hempstead, Forest City of Wantagh, Malibu of Lido Beach, Newbridge of Bellmore, Oceanside, Rath of Franklin Square and Veterans of East Meadow.
Stephanie Hellemeyer, who was coordinating the event for the Town of Hempstead, explained that the children went door-to-door, getting pledges.
"It's not pledges per lap that they swim," she said. "It's a pledge for being at the event."
Starting at 8 a.m., the swimmers warmed up with calisthenics, followed by about 30 minutes of laps, and then a full swim of the perimeter of the entire pool.
Sam Kille, director of public relations for the Red Cross, said he thought the event taught the children valuable lessons.
"Not only is it bringing kids together from across Nassau County to raise money," he said. "But it's also a way for them to learn about the Red Cross."
While the Red Cross is often seen assisting with relief efforts during big disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, they also respond to house fires on a regular basis; on average, over 100 a year.
"We help over 400 residents each year with food, shelter and clothing," Kille pointed out. "The funds raised here today go a long way towards helping people in Nassau County."
In the end, the pledge amounts were tallied, and in first place was Franklin Square with a whopping $2,255, followed by Bellmore in second with an impressive $2,002. West Hempstead was third with $1,097.
Allie Aguece, head coach for the Bellmore's Newbridge Swim Club, expressed pride in the performance of her team.
"Everyone's dedicated, and that's why we have one of the best swim teams in Hempstead," Aguese said. "This event is a chance for the kids to help those in need."
Town Supervisor Kate Murray was scheduled to address the swimmers, but was unable to attend. A representative sent thanked the tired children for their commendable efforts.
However, the children seemed more interested in the award presented to them afterwards...ice cream.