BRISTOL — Huge crowds overflowed Wellington State Beach in Bristol last Friday as both young and old came out to cheer on participants in Swim with a Mission, a fundraising event which raised money for veterans’ causes both locally and nationally.
Phil and Julie Taub of both Bedford and Hebron organized the day’s activities, and were excited to bring in the United States Navy SEALs to headline their efforts.
“I wanted to bring a major event to this beautiful lake. My hope was to energize a group of people, like swimmers, who don’t usually take part in 5K races and other types of fundraisers, to come out and raise money for our veterans,” Taub said. “I reached out to the SEALs and to people all across and they all said, ‘Tell me what you want me to do.’ This isn’t just about money today though, it’s about outreach for our veterans, and this is how we decided to bring attention to them.”
Beneficiaries from the event, he added, would be the Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, Florida, New Hampshire’s “Veterans Count” organization, and Plymouth’s Bridge House shelter, which aids homeless veterans in central New Hampshire.
The origin of the Navy Seals goes back to World War II, when it became evident that beach reconnaissance missions were important to U.S.defense tactics. Since that time, the SEALs have been a vital part of the military, renowned for their strength, determination and capability of handling missions on air, land and sea.
Swim with a Mission began last Friday morning with three endurance-swimming events on Newfound Lake. Among the events were a 5K individual swim, a 10K individual challenge, and finally a grueling 10K team relay. Top fundraisers for the charitable swims also had the opportunity to have a Navy Seal join them in their efforts.
The day also included food from the Common Man Family of Restaurants and other local vendors, a beer tent, ice cream, face painting, some temporary body tattoo art, live music from the band “Madison Rising,” as well as live broadcasts from WGIR radio in Manchester.
The SEALs brought in their K9 partners for a special demonstration and even posed for photos with children who were excited to meet them all. Among the guests was former U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte, who was excited to meet the K9 corps and Navy SEALs and pose for a few photos as well.
At the end of the swimming challenges, a special ceremony was held, featuring the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by Miss New Hampshire, who performed before an honor guard provided by the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets and League Cadets. An interview, along with a question and answer session from Navy Seal Museum’s Executive Director, Richard Kaiser, a retired Navy SEAL himself, followed.
Kaiser said it was an honor to have served his country and explained a bit about what it takes to be a Navy SEAL before taking questions from the crowd.
One person asked if he was ever really afraid in his years as a SEAL. Kaiser replied that fear was always a factor in his line of work.
“Yes, of course. You don’t want someone beside you who isn’t afraid. Fear is healthy if it’s well managed. If you don’t have some fear, then I don’t want you out there beside me,” Kaiser said.
He also stated that while he has been thanked hundreds of times for his service to the country, donations to veterans’ causes would be much more appreciated than a mere thank you, no matter how sincere it may be.
“If you want to thank a veteran, give money,” he said.
The event came to an end with a thrilling aerial demonstration when two members of the SEALs parachuted from a helicopter and landed just off the shoreline of Newfound Lake. As they touched down just off Wellington Beach, they were greeted with loud cheers and applause.
Crowds attending the daylong event were huge for a chilly and overcast summer day. While the park officials couldn’t determine an official count, they guessed it to be close to 2,000 people, possibly more.
“This was a really big day here at Wellington, that’s all we know right now,” they said.
Cars overflowed the large parking lots while many more visitors had to park along West Shore Road then walk in to the event. Surprisingly, most didn’t mind. They were just excited to support three great causes and spend some time with some real American heroes.
At the end of the day one woman said, “This has been amazing. We live in Massachusetts and my son said he wants to be a Navy Seal one day, so we got up at one o’clock this morning just to come here to see them in action. It was well worth it; these are great people and it was all for a great cause.”
By Donna Rhodes
See original article in the Newfound Landing.