The inspiration behind this year’s Power Issue all began with my desire to ride a hot air balloon.
You see, I was fortunate enough to attend the World Aquatic Health Conference for the first time last fall. Their welcome shindig was held outdoors under the starry Arizona sky, and among the many treats in store for the guests was the chance to ride a brilliantly lit hot air balloon.
After dinner, I made my way over to the long line of people patiently waiting their turn for a ride. I made small talk with the quiet man behind me.
“So, what’s your involvement in aquatics?” I asked.
“Not much, actually,” he said. When I raised my eyebrows, he introduced himself as Joe Lewis, founder of a nonprofit called Angels of America’s Fallen. His mission was to help the children of deceased soldiers and first responders by engaging them in an extracurricular activity of their choice. The loss of a military parent, he said, makes these kids seven times more vulnerable to depression and suicide. The best way to combat that is to draw the children into experiencing life. Many of the youngsters chose swimming as their activity, and he was there because the National Swimming Pool Foundation was giving his organization a grant to enroll more of his kids in swim lessons.
The next 30 minutes whizzed by as I was pulled into the details of Joe's story. The passion and zeal he had for helping these children was truly heartfelt and inspiring. Although the balloon rides eventually were cancelled due to high winds, I wasn't disappointed. Instead, I left the event feeling quite elated. At that point, I knew we had the theme for our next Power Issue: We would honor those who showed the same dedication and fervor for serving the underserved, for those who’ve devoted their efforts to improving the field of aquatics.
I’m so proud to introduce this year’s Power honorees. I hope you come away as inspired as I was by the examples set by this wonderful group of aquatics professionals.