By Madison Purvis
An Iowa City family was recognized for helping the community achieve an important goal at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
The goal was to make sure that every child has the opportunity to learn how to swim, a part of the Park Master Plan.
Juli Seydell Johnson, the director of the Parks and Recreation Department, said, “Swimming is an important safety skill and a lifelong recreation and fitness skill.”
Aquatic supervisor Matthew Eckhardt said the work toward this goal started in 2014, when a golf outing was hosted as a fundraiser to develop a scholarship program that allows kids to get swimming lessons who do not have the financial ability to do so.
“We were able to provide to a certain level, but then we reached a point where we wanted to reach out more,” Eckhardt said.
And then the opportunity to do more became possible.
Gary Watts approached Eckhardt and suggested that they should do a 24-hour swim as a fundraiser.
While Eckhardt said he was not sure at first how this would be possible, Watts offered to host the event at his home.
On May 5 and 6, the event took place with the help of a lot of motivated individuals. Around 40 swimmers participated, and Watts said it ended up being a great event that was a lot of fun.
Eckhardt said the goal was to raise $10,000, and they raised $9,465. However, the Watts family matched this amount to put them way beyond the goal.
The amount allowed them to give out 163 individual scholarships, a great leap toward the goal.
They said they found there was a lot of support toward meeting the goal in the community.
The Watts family is planning on hosting this event again in 2018. It will take place on same date.