EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally sent as a weekly email to parents and members of the Gwinnett County Swim League by Meg Rooney, who is retiring as a board member.
For the past 17 years, I have had one of the best views in Gwinnett County because I have been able to see community at its finest. I have been able to go in and out of your neighborhoods and see approximately 100 adults working together in organized chaos in order to give 300 or so children ranging from ages 3 to 18 a summer full of memories.
I have seen purple water, pink water, orange water, mostly blue water and occasionally green water being etched into the memories of sweet little cherubs, manic middle schoolers and hormonal teenagers as they travel through childhood. I have seen families as small as two and as large as 10 spending quality family time together for six weeks each summer.
I have seen a league of children who looked like mine transform into a league represented by many cultures and ethnicities. I have seen teenage boys and girls go from setting relay records as the anchor on a relay team to coming to county as the head coach with the thrill of coaching record setting relay teams. I have seen two twin young male coaches come into their first county meet as the new coaches on the block and leave after three days as the coaches everyone in the facility knew because of their passion, their love of their swimmers and their strong hands as they beat them on starting blocks.
I have served under five presidents of the league, leaving only one of them with hair on their heads after serving with me.
I have seen a sweet lady named Mrs. C. become the matriarch of the league and leave a hat as the icon for the entire league. I have seen 1,300 people stand and cheer and grown men with tears in their eyes as an 18-year old Downs Syndrome girl stepped up on the blocks in the very first Spirit of the League heat after 12 years of telling her coach she was going to swim in the county meet. I have seen two promising young swimmers blast through our league leaving records in their wake on their way to the Olympics where they brought home bronze, silver and of course gold, making us proud of the small roll we played in their success.
And I have seen another young promising swimmer blast her way through our league to have life take her a different direction than any of us thought as she swam her last meet in the Paralympics and we all rallied behind her and her family in prayer and tears.
I have seen many of our swimmers develop leadership skills that they carried forward into military branches to defend our freedom to hold swim meets. And I have watched with pride as sometimes they combined their leadership skills with their passion for swimming to serve as Navy Seals or Coast Guard officers. And I have seen 50-plus teams mourn the sudden death of the wife of a board member only to mourn his own sudden death months later.
And I stood at the funeral of one of our finest coaches with well over a thousand of you as we cried for her husband and young children after she lost her battle with cancer.
Please keep serving the youth of Gwinnett County with the same passion, energy and selflessness I have observed for the past 17 years. When your feet are tired because you have been timing for six hours straight at the county meet, remember you are helping at least one child believe in themselves because they just took five seconds off their freestyle.
When your eyes are blurry from entering times at the swim meet, remember one child at that meet swam without getting DQd and is learning that they can do anything they set their minds to.
When your heart is aching because you just disqualified that adorable 6-year-old, remember you are helping them learn the lesson of practice makes perfect.
The lessons go on and on, I know because my own children learned them from this experience.
I know through the 17 years, some of you may not have always seen eye-to-eye with me, but I want you to know that the wellbeing of this league has always been at the center of my heart. I have always tried to base my opinions on what was best for the wellbeing of the entire league and sometimes what is best for a team of 250 may not be best for a team of 80 and what is best for the team of 80 may not be best for the team of 250.
So finding what is best for the entire league is what we were challenged with and what you will be challenged with as you move on with this dedicated and remarkable Board. Thank you for allowing me to reap the joys of this organization for the past 18 years. For every hour I have put into this organization, I have reaped 100-plus hours or more of fun, joy and blessings in return. I have met some of the most amazing, talented and selfless people in Georgia. I walk away from my 18 years with the league and 17 years on the board a much better person because of each of you and those that have served before you.
Meg Rooney is a Lilburn resident who volunteered with the Gwinnett County Swim League for 17 years.