Swimmers from a previous Park to Park Open Swim event. Photo courtesy Aileen Kelly

Swimmers from a previous Park to Park Open Swim event. Photo courtesy Aileen Kelly

Charity swim event hits Kirkland this weekend

The Park to Park Open Swim benefits Seattle Children’s Hospital.

The Park to Park Open Swim event is hitting Kirkland this weekend.

The annual event, which is set for Aug. 25, was founded in 2005 by community member Annie Thorgrimson and benefits Seattle Children’s Hospital. Since its inception, it has raised a little more than $265,000 for the Emergency Patient Assistance Fund at Seattle Children’s, which allows social workers affiliated with the hospital to support families in need of essential items like food, transportation and shelter.

The proceeds assist up to 2,000 families annually.

Thorgrimson started Park to Park Open Swim initially as a simple “friends and neighbors”-style gathering. But the response to it made it clear that the event could be more than that.

“They decided, ‘This is so fun,’ why don’t we do this for charity?’” Aileen Kelly, executive director of the Swim for Children’s Guild, said.

Kelly estimates that about $3,000 was raised in the first year — a small number in comparison to the $50,000 accumulated in 2018.

Thorgrimson headed the community swim for several years. But eventually she decided that she wanted to give the event, as described by Kelly, back to Seattle Children’s and find another guild to run it.

That’s how the Swim for Children’s Guild was formed.

“We didn’t want to see it go away,” Wendy Funicello,compliance and guild projects manager for the organization, said.

There are about a dozen members in the group. The mixture of men and women take on different roles: volunteers coordinator, graphic designer, treasurer and others.

Kelly said planning for Park to Park typically begins in January, with three to four meetings occurring before the gathering actually happens in August.

The premise of the event is simple. Interested residents choose to swim one of two offered Lake Washington routes, with their registration fees going to the fund.

There is a classic route, which is a 1.3-miles-long swim that commences at Seattle’s Matthews Beach and ends at Kirkland’s O.O. Denny Park. Though the course is intended for strong swimmers, and for people who can finish it up in less than 90 minutes, the classic is non-competitive and meant to be “fun,” as stated on its website.

The double-dip route, in contrast, presents a challenge. Although it covers the same area as the classic route, and also is non-competitive, it is a round-trip expedition that begins at 7:30 a.m. About 2.5 miles long, it begins at O.O. Denny Park, has swimmers touch on Matthews Beach as a midpoint and then ends back at the Kirkland location.

It is expected that those who register for the double-dip get to the Matthews checkpoint in 45 minutes. Otherwise, there’s a chance they will be pulled from the water.

Anyone who finishes either route is provided coffee and breakfast at O.O. Denny Park. Currently, the entry fees for the classic and double-dip routes are, respectively, $95 and $110.

All registrations, which include transportation, a swim cap, a T-shirt, chip timing and a victory breakfast, are final. Participants must be at least 14 years old.

Kelly said it’s not too late to lend a hand even if people aren’t looking to swim. The event’s coordinators are still looking for on-the-water volunteers like kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders and land volunteers to help with the clothing check, cheering and hot breakfast at O.O. Denny Park.

“The guild is grateful for the years of support from the volunteers and the donors,” Kelly said. “Without that support from the community, we couldn’t do it at all.”

Funicello is always dazzled by the people who come to the event.

“It is unbelievable and amazing to see 300 people standing on a shoreline with their swim gear who are going to get into the water at 7:30 in the morning and swim across Lake Washington,” she said.

Funicello added that she’s amazed by the effort that goes into making the swim a fun and safe event. She hopes the guild can maintain what’s made the event so successful throughout its run, and specifically singled out the more recent addition of the double-dip as being “wildly successful.”

“When you’re there so early in the morning and the sun’s coming up, you just know it’s going to be a great day,” Funicello said.

“I look forward to the camaraderie and the different friends that come to do it together,” Kelly said. “Everybody’s always in a good mood.”

Though Kelly said that the event has become popular enough to have consistently met its physical capacity, she still wants the event to grow in other ways.

“We hope to continue to grow the event and grow our fundraising dollars,” she said. “The more money we raise, the more families we can help.”

For more information about the event, visit www.parktoparkswim.com.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Charity swim event hits Kirkland this weekend

More in Life

2021 Ford F-150 Platinum. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Ford F-150 Platinum

By Larry Lark, contributor It’s always a call to action when a… Continue reading

The Cadillac CT4 is designed to appeal to a new generation of Cadillac buyers with its athletic design and astute driving dynamics. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury

By Larry Lark, contributor With apologies to Oldsmobile, “the 2020 CT4 Premium… Continue reading

2021 Mercedes E-350 luxury sedan. Courtesy photo
Car review: 2021 Mercedes E-350 luxury sedan

By Larry Lark, contributor Mercedes-Benz occupies rarified air in the automobile pantheon.… Continue reading

Still from the movie
Indie film starring Lake Washington student now available

The horror film “They Reach” was shot in 2018 around King County.

Deception Pass State Park. Deception Pass is a strait separating Whidbey Island from Fidalgo Island. File photo
Free Park Days in 2021 start in January

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission will again offer 12 free… Continue reading

Courtesy photo/Artists Sunday
Artists Sunday, following Black Friday, puts out call for participants before Nov. 29

The movement has a website that offers a free directory of artists and art organizations that participate

courtesy photo
Students helping students, teachers during the pandemic with free tutoring program

Two Northshore School District students have launched a website for free tutoring classes for elementary school kids, with plans to expand

File photo from September 2016, when hundreds participated in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s event at Redmond Town Center.
Eastside Walk to End Alzheimer’s Oct. 10

Similar to other walk events in the region, Alzheimer’s Association encourages registered users to walk in a location of their choice

Forbes Creek Park. Courtesy photo/City of Kirkland
Kirkland reopening playgrounds

The city states there’s been an increase in compliance in masking and social distancing in the city, leading to the reopening

Diya Garg, left, distributes Mighty Crayon recycles crayons and coloring books for Seattle students. Courtesy photo/Diya Garg.
Getting crayons to kids runs in the family

Eastside nonprofit Mighty Crayon is relaunched by younger sister of founder, repurposing used restaurant crayons

Photos: Students give thank you cards to local health workers
Photos: Students give thank you cards to local health workers

The cards were delivered to home care and hospice centers and EvergreenHealth.