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This week’s installment of Moments That Matter comes from Kolene McDade, who as a Schweitzer Fellow in New Hampshire-Vermont last year (along with partner Meredith Bartelstein) worked to expand SwimCHAMPS, a program at the Upper Valley Aquatic Center that seeks to empower children who have been diagnosed with asthma to become educated and confident partners in the management of their chronic disease through swimming.

The Dartmouth Medical School student says:

“One of my most favorite moments of SwimCHAMPS was working with a 7 year old girl. As a very shy and timid girl upon introduction, it was amazing to see how she developed over the course of just a few weeks.

At her first swimming lesson — which was able to be a one-on-one experience because of our wonderful volunteers — she refused to get into the water, and it was at that moment that I began to think we were going to never make any progress.

But it was one foot in, then both feet in, and each day we made more and more progress. She began standing in the water and then floating with our support, kicking herself, and using a kick board. And by the last day, our goal was to get her to put her head all the way into the water.

After much coaxing and several ‘almost’ attempts, she finally jumped into my arms underwater… my breath was frozen when I pulled her up, expecting tears and anger directed to me, but you can only imagine my astonishment to see a big smile and a wet arm pointing to the slide which was her reward for going under.

I know this is going to be just the first time going under water for her, but it was incredibly special to see it and be there with her for that very first time.

I think about her a lot, and so much about what the Schweitzer Fellowship has meant to me is embodied in her spirit. We can really shape lives and make a difference, and it is really as simple as holding your arms out and asking people to reach, jump, and swim just a little further than they would if you had not been there.”

About Moments That Matter

Each year, approximately 200 Schweitzer Fellows across the U.S. commit themselves to creating and carrying out an intense yearlong service project that addresses unmet health needs — all on top of their typical graduate school responsibilities.

It’s an awe-inspiring commitment — and one that may at times seem thankless.

But for each Schweitzer Fellow, there are those sustaining moments — the moments when things “click,” and you have instant, inspiring proof that your Schweitzer project is making a difference that’s rippling outward. These, like the Moment above, are the Moments That Matter — and here at Beyond Boulders we are spotlighting them every Tuesday.

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