Verdugo Pool hosts meningitis talk with Olympic medalist Dara Torres

Dozens of young swimmers hopped into the Verdugo Pool on Tuesday with twelve-time Olympic medalist

Dara Torres

to swim 24 laps, signifying that meningococcal meningitis can claim a life in just 24 hours.

Swimmers from Burbank and Hancock Park gathered to hear Torres speak at the event, which was hosted by the Voices of Meningitis.

“I've seen what this disease can potentially do to kids,” said Torres, a mother of three, encouraging parents to speak with their healthcare providers about vaccinations.

Young people between the ages of 16 and 21 are the most at risk for the disease, said Carolina Sandoval, a pediatric nurse practitioner at the event.

“They're close together, sharing utensils, sharing kisses, bottled water,” she said. “How can you tell a teenager, 'Don't hug your girlfriend?'“

Also at the event was Robbin Thibodeaux, who lost her 19-year-old son Thomas James Kent to the disease on Christmas in 2005.

“He fueled my purpose to educate and bring awareness,” she said. “It's quite devastating for a family to lose somebody as bright as Thomas was.”

Burbank parent Kristin Udall brought her three daughters to the event because her brother was hospitalized as a child with the disease. The illness, she said, also claimed the life of her husband's brother, at just three years old, in 1972.

While her kids are up to date on their vaccines, she said building awareness is important.

“If it can prevent a death, it's worth it,” she said.