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Olympic Medalist to Host Swim Meet Benefiting Salvation Army

Released 2 October 2008

jones wins the goldNine people drown each day in the United States, and in ethnically-diverse communities, the youth drowning rate is more than double the national average, according to USA Swimming’s Make a Splash Foundation. To combat these staggering statistics, 2008 Olympic gold medalists Cullen Jones and Brendan Hansen are partnering with The Salvation Army and the Philadelphia Department of Recreation (PDR) to promote learn-to-swim and water safety programs in Philadelphia during a three day event from Thursday – Saturday, October 16 – 18, 2008.
Jones won a gold medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay in a world record time of 3:08.24 with teammates Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak, and Garrett Weber-Gale. Hansen also won gold in Beijing as part of the Men’s 400 meter medley relay team of Phelps, Lezak, and Aaron Perisol. The two swimmers have endorsed The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center and specifically stress the importance of incorporating a strong aquatic program within the community center’s Aquatic Center. Hansen, a Havertown, Pa. native, says “The Salvation Army Kroc Center will ensure that all children – regardless of income – will have access to a world class facility where they can learn to swim and have the opportunity to take their skill to the next level.”

At 10:00 a.m. on October 16th Philadelphia City Council will declare October 18, 2008, “Cullen Jones Day.” Jim Ellis, founder and head coach of the PDR Swim Team and subject of the 2007 Hollywood film Pride, and Major Timothy Lyle, Administrator of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, will accept the proclamation and say a few remarks on behalf of Jones.

Cullen Jones and Brendan Hansen will also attend a private reception where they will meet and greet The Salvation Army Kroc Center friends and donors the next evening.

The three days of events will culminate with the 1st Annual Cullen Jones Sprint Festival on Cullen Jones’ Day, Saturday, October 18, 2008, at LaSalle University. The swim meet will feature local Philadelphia and regional swimmers ages 9 and up participating in 50 and 100 meter sprint races. To close the meet Jones and Hansen will race against each other in an exciting sprint finale!

During the meet Cullen Jones and Jim Ellis, both spokesmen for USA Swimming’s Make a Splash Foundation, will address the crowd. Jones, who had a near drowning experience as a child, knows first hand the importance of water safety and swim lessons. Through the Make a Splash program Jones advocates child-focused water safety initiatives and promotes lean-to-swim programs. His personal mission is to help educate children, especially minorities, about the importance of learning to swim, not necessarily for speed, but as an important survival skill. Brendan Hansen will also share his story of how swimming has positively impacted his life. Afterwards, fans will be able to meet Jones and Hansen, get their autographs, and win raffle prizes of autographed swimming gear.

At the meet, spectators can learn about the flagship aquatic programs that will be designed and lead by Coach Ellis at The Salvation Army Kroc Center. Renderings of the state-of-the-art facility will also be available for viewing. Coach Ellis is thrilled about the transformative impact that aquatic center will have on the lives of those involved. “Swimming provides a good environment off the streets, in which kids can burn off energy and pursue a healthy activity. It teaches body awareness, proper nutrition and time management. Swimming teaches young people how to set short-term, mid-range and long-term goals. After the basics, they can learn lifesaving, CPR, water polo, and even get a lifeguarding job in the summer. Swimming helps kids control their weight, manage asthma, and build cardiovascular health,” says Coach Ellis of the many benefits of a swimming program.

Cullen Jones and Brendan Hansen would love to fill LaSalle University Kirk Natatorium’s 1,500 seat stadium with fans cheering on the next generations of Olympic swimming hopefuls. Warm ups begin at 7:30 a.m. and the whistle will blow for the start of the first sprint at 9:00 a.m. The cost is $5.00 per spectator and children under five are free. Entry in the race is $4.00 per event by the October 10th deadline. For more information and to register visit Proceeds from the meet will go to support the Cullen Jones Diversity Campaign and the construction of The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Center in North Philadelphia.

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