Sponsor a former Starling
Lori (No. 5, while an 9th grader, wearing a medal earned at the Starlings Nationals in 2003) was one of the original Allied Gardens Starlings in 2002 on the team that Dennis Herrmann and I started. I had not met her before. She was an avid softball player and easily took to the sport. She played with passion, was the team captain and quickly became one of my daughter’s best friends, and has remained a close friend to this day. She played with us several years and played on the high school varsity teams in softball and volleyball. Her last year in high school, while still playing softball, helped coach one of the younger teams instead of playing.
She was a good student and for many years she spoke about her dream of becoming a veterinarian. She went to UC Davis to accomplish that goal. During the summer after her second year, she went back up for the summer to do an internship. It was July 2008. She spent a weekend hiking in Yosemite. That Sunday night, she was at a friend’s house and developed back problems. She went home. The symptoms worsened. She called a friend to come over. It got worse. She lost feeling in her legs. She called her parents and they had her call 911. By the time her parents got from San Diego to Davis the next day, she had already had back surgery and the spinal cord was damaged. She was paralyzed from the upper back down. Family and friends were in shock. The week before she had been in San Diego playing beach volleyball with my daughter.
Her prognosis was unclear, but throughout it all, she remained positive. She was limited to a bed or wheelchair. Then one day she had feelings in one foot. She worked hard in rehab. I will always remember when she came over to my house to watch the NCAA volleyball finals in December following her surgery. She told Dennis and I that she had something for us. She pushed herself up from her wheelchair, and with very lumbered steps, walked across my family room. I still get emotional thinking about it. Walking again had been far from a certainty, and it was amazing to see.
After being out of school a year, she returned to Davis. The USC program provided her a scholarship to help her continue toward completing her dream of becoming a veterinarian, and I was honored that she asked me in April 2009 to write a letter of recommendation for her application for the scholarship. Although she still needed the use of a walker the last time I saw her, she drives, is independent and moving forward with her dream.
Although she was not one of the lucky ones to get the athletic scholarship for volleyball, she truly is one of the Starlings’ success stories.
From Lori Hammond:
Dear Family and Friends,
This year I am participating in a very exciting and very important fundraising event. It is through the organization Swim With Mike, a group based out of USC, composed of dedicated individuals raising money to send people facing disabilities to college. The specific scholarship is the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship.
While attending Project Walk I was told about this scholarship through another client, a Swim With Mike board member, who heard of my interest in returning to UC Davis. I applied for this scholarship and was fortunate to be one of the few accepted recipients. Swim with Mike has made an incredible impact on alleviating the financial burden of university tuition and has allowed me to focus on academics. In case you do not know this already, I have been back to UC Davis for a year and a half and have loved every moment of it! I still continue my therapy with a trainer I have found in Davis and I get around these days using hiking poles. It has been a long road to get back here and I am so thankful to everyone who has cheered me on the whole way. I am also incredibly thankful for all that Swim With Mike has provided me and that is why this year I am very excited to be able to help give back.
The fundraising event is a swim at the USC campus pool where all the participants, their friends and family, and Swim with Mike affiliates get together to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments while also raising money for future and current recipients. I will be swimming the morning of the main fundraising event to illustrate my dedication and gratitude to their program and to bring in sponsorship donations as I swim.
That is where all of you come in. I would greatly appreciate it if you could make a tax-deductible donation to this great cause. You can donate at www.swimwithmike.org where you can select “I Want to Sponsor” and then under either swimmer or recipient locate and click on my name. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter and I sincerely hope you find Swim with Mike an organization worth donating to! Please browse the site and read some bios of the amazing recipients who you will be helping. They are sure to inspire! Take care.