Tomorrow morning, 8:40 EST, I will begin a 48-hour swim to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims in the NY/NJ area a year after that storm changed thousands of lives in a matter of few violent, terrifying minutes.
Thousands of good people are still homeless. Thousands more have not received government assistance. Insurance agents are arguing with flood damage companies.
I'm from NYC. Was home in the city last year right after Sandy tore through. I happened to meet Mayor Bloomberg's chief legal counsel, Carol Robles Roman, and we got talking about some small way I might help the victims of the storm.
A month later I called Carol: "What if we built a pool, installed it in the heart of the city... What if I swam for 48 continuous hours in one lane and in the next lane all kinds of people kept me company for a few minutes each... What if in the end we raised a big fat number of dollars for the Sandy victims still struggling a year later?"
That's where we started.
And tomorrow morning, the pool will be ready. I'll be ready, my team will be in place and guests have signed up to swim next to me ALL 48 HOURS... including a dog named Roscoe who survived the storm by virtue of swimming to his own rescue.
Yes, Olympian Ryan Lochte and fitness hero Richard Simmons and NY firefighters and Sandy victims and dozens of others -- including Roscoe -- are going to swim with me to make our statement loud and clear:
WE HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN YOU, SANDY VICTIMS!
Bonnie and the Xtreme Dream Team are here deckside, too!
The pool, a wild, first-class engineering feat unto itself, started arriving in pieces last night. A crew from the famous Olympic pool company Myrtha began welding and aligning pipes to City water systems.
A company well versed in producing events in New York's open spaces, Stuart Weissman Productions, has been working tirelessly with Myrtha and with my personaltTeam, for months.
They will work 'round the clock until 8:40 a.m. tomorrow (Tues) when Good Morning America comes to the deck to start us off, live on their air.
Procter & Gamble's brands, known for their huge contribution to disaster relief, have underwritten the entire project. Duracell batteries are on site, the same way they showed up when Sandy first hit, giving away hundreds of thousands of batteries, charging cell phones for people many days without electricity. TIDE is behind us here, the same way they rush into disaster sites and set up their banks of dozens of washers to help people get back on their feet.
We are so very proud to announce that EVERY SINGLE DOLLAR donated to NYADSwimforRelief.com will go directly (via Americares) to individual Sandy victims, all because P&G has made sure we don't need your dollars to produce the event. It's taken care of.
I finished the Cuba swim exactly five weeks ago today. Just enough time to recuperate, gain all my strength back. I'm feeling strong, motivated, and ready to step up for my fellow New Yorkers and New Jersey cousins who still need us.
This is not an athletic record of any kind. Even though 48 hours non-stop swimming is always a test of endurance and focus, the point here is community spirit and important fund-raising for people in need. I will lean across the lane line often to hug someone who has just swum with me for 15 minutes. I may have to get out for the occasional toilet break.
Unlike the ocean where we respect rules of the sport to the letter and I never receive any flotation or forward progress aid, where I would never touch the boat, hang onto the boat, or certainly get out onto the boat, there are no rules for these 48 hours.
I will tread water for my food & drink stops, rather than casually stand on the bottom of the shallow pool, in some sort of solidarity with the Sandy victims and their tough times. Other than that, we want our guest swimmers to enjoy the experience, as well as all the folks who stroll by and come up onto the deck to be part of it with us.
(Timothy Wheeler's documentary on my four-year Cuba swim journey will present a special screening of the film, right on the deck, both the nights I'm swimming, Tues, Oct 8, and again Wed, Oct 9, both evenings at 8 p.m.
If you're in the NY area, come out at any time day or night, and come catch the film in the unique setting of the film's protagonist swimming right under the screen!!!)
Five weeks ago, I was awash with a flood of emotions, in finally completing the Dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida.
Last night I stood in Herald Square, already feeling the magic that's going to come with swimming for two days under the shadow of the Empire State Building... and the power that's going to come with an entire city joining in, once again, to help our fallen fellow citizens.
Come be part of it: NYADSwimforRelief.com