An ambitious young swimmer has found a way to use the sport she loves as a catalyst for social change in Charlotte.
12-year-old Grace Daniels is the founder of Laps for Love, a charitable swim competition she launched last year to raise money for Charlotte Rescue Mission.
“Me and my board members’ goal is to end homelessness in Charlotte before we go off to college,” she said, “and we do that through the sport of swimming.”
In its first year, Laps for Love donated more than $10,000 to Charlotte Rescue Mission.
This year, Grace and her team are doubling down on their impact, aiming to bring in an impressive $25,000.
And they’re doing it all with a board of directors run entirely by kids.
Grace reached out to her friends, teammates and neighbors to form a board of directors composed of fellow 11- and 12-year-old girls.
Although she’s quick to point out that they do have plenty of adult guidance, Grace and her board members—Abbi Snyder (12), Riley Buelow (11) and Claire Swain (12)—call the shots, set the goals and seek out their own corporate sponsorships.
In fact, Grace and Riley had a private meeting with a Showmars executive to land a sponsorship from the Charlotte-based restaurant chain.
Laps for Love has a very real impact on the residents at Charlotte Rescue Mission, and not just financially.
Donations from Laps for Love go to provide meals, shelter and professional counseling services for residents at Charlotte Rescue Mission. But, according to Communications and Events Specialist Megan Lepore, this is also the Mission’s first time working with an entirely kid-run organization.
And that in itself, she says, is special.
“For our residents, it’s really important for them to know that the community stands behind them,” said Lepore. “And for these kids to, you know, take money out of their pocket, time out of their day, it means a lot for them to know that these kids care about them.”
So why would kids want to get involved in charity work?
For Abbi, it’s a chance to give back. “I take so many things for granted and just having a house and having money is one of those things,” she said. “There are so many people who are homeless in Charlotte and this charity is really making a difference.”
Riley, whose dad Todd Buelow is the former Chairman of the Board for Charlotte Rescue Mission, encourages all kids to dive into charity work early.
“The younger you start, the more exciting it is to do it because you can feel like you’re part of something big,” she said.
The next Laps for Love charity swim competition will take place this Thursday, August 25.
Eight neighborhood teams will compete in a 45-minute swim relay. The event will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Beverly Crest Swimming Pool. They’re expecting 150 swimmers and about 400 spectators.
Because the cost of the event is covered by sponsors, 100% of donations go directly to Charlotte Rescue Mission. Can’t make it to the event? Donate here.
“We’re trying to end homelessness and it’s possible,” said Riley. “We hope that kids, you can do anything. It doesn’t matter how young you are. You can start a charity whenever you want.
Laps for Love 2016 Charity Swim Competition
Date: Thursday, August 25
Time: 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: Beverly Crest Swimming Pool, 7100 Henseys Way, Charlotte, NC 28270