October 28, 2021

Diving in to help hospice

Women Swimmin' swimmers do laps to raise money

Katie Keyser/contributing photographer

Nancy Nivison of Cortlandville at the YWCA during a Joint Venture class on Aug. 8, 2018. She said her classmates in the pool were big contributors to her Women Swimmin' lap fundraiser for Hospicare and Palliative Services.

Jean Hamilton of Cortlandville swam competitively as a teenager, for an 11-year-period.

“I am a firm believer that there is no exercise better for us than swimming,” the 70-year-old said.

When her husband, Dave Hamilton, executive director of the YMCA, handed her a flier looking for swimmers to do laps for a Women Swimmin’ hospice fundraiser, she took it on.

She and over 30 other women at the Cortland and Ithaca YMCAs and the Cortland YWCA, as well as a few other pools, took on the challenge to swim laps for 22 weeks — 100 yards a week, to complete the 1.2-mile span of Cayuga Lake — as a fundraiser for Hospicare. The youngest lap swimmer was 25 and the oldest 80 or above, according to Hospicare & Palliative Care Services.

The other option takes place today, when more than 300 women are swimming across Cayuga Lake, to raise $408,500 for hospice services in Tompkins and Cortland counties.

“It’s been going on for several years,” said Nancy Nivison, 68, of Cortlandville, a retired library director at DeRuyter Free Library. “This is the first year I heard about it. … Those who don’t want to do the lake swim, they offer people the option to do laps in a lifeguard-type pool. I said to myself, well, that sounds like a neat fundraiser.”

And she liked the fact that it wasn’t a race, she said.

“This is the fourth year we have offered the lap portion. And it’s the 15th Women Swimmin’ overall,” said Melissa Travis Dunham, event coordinator. “Donations are rolling in. That’s exciting to see. The money raised is terribly important, for patients and the families that we take care of.”

Hospicare & Palliative Care Services provides medical expertise and emotional, social and spiritual support to people with terminal illnesses and their families in Cortland and Tompkins counties. It provides care in people’s homes, nursing homes and in a six-bed residence on East King Road in Ithaca.

Travis Dunham said she is working with 120 volunteers and a troupe of 170 boats to make sure the event runs safely and smoothly.

Hamilton, a retired computer software company employee who takes care of babies mornings at the YMCA, wasn’t doing much swimming before the initiative, she said.
But she did 20 to 24 lengths of the YMCA pool after her child-care stint.

“And those endorphins!” she said. “Swimming makes me happy. I get out of the pool and I am always in a good mood. Bring on the world.”

Over the course of several months she completed her 1.2 miles. She wants to keep it up.

Nivison is a regular at the YWCA’s Joint Venture program. She does a half hour of exercises with a leader and then gets in the pool for a half hour, doing laps and socializing.

For the swimming initiative, she did her laps three days a week. “I tried to do between seven and 10 laps a day,” said Nivison. That equals out to 14 and 20 lengths of the pool. Two lengths equal a lap.

Nivison saw her endurance improve. She went far beyond 1.2 miles — she did five between March and June.

The women noted the differences in pools. The YMCA is 25 yards long, suitable for competitions, and is in the low 80 degrees temperature. The YWCA pool is 20 yards and is 89 degrees.

“Everyone gets accommodated between the two,” Hamilton said.

Both plan to keep on swimming.

People can sign up for the swim and pay a registration fee and are asked to raise a minimum of $200, or whatever you can.

Both are familiar with hospice. Nivison had relatives and friends in hospice care in the past.

“I cared for my mother at home till she passed away,” Hamilton said. “I had a lot of assistance from them (in Clifton Springs). Hospice nurses have to be among God’s favorite people.”