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WOODLAND HILLS : Pierce Pool Fund-Raiser Gains $5,000

Her favorite swimming pool was in danger, so 68-year-old Connie Durham swam to the rescue.

And swam and swam.

All told, the Canoga Park resident did 78 laps--more than a mile--as part of a swim-a-thon to raise money for Pierce College Pool. Swim-a-thon organizers said Monday that Durham and several hundred other participants in the event raised more than $5,000, enough to help repair the pool and keep it open during the winter.

Billed as the “West Valley’s Biggest Pool Party,” the event attracted serious athletes, including an Olympic gold medalist, as well as recreational swimmers, such as Durham.

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“My first goal was to do one lap for each year of my life,” Durham said. “Then I was feeling pretty good, so I thought I’d swim five extra for my husband, who was having his 73rd birthday. And then I just swam five more.”

“I have a real affinity for the water,” she said. “I just visualize myself moving through it easily, like a fish.”

Swimmers collected pledges for each lap, with some raising as much as $1,000. Two swimming lessons by Mel Stewart, who holds the world record in the 200-meter butterfly, were auctioned for $500 apiece.

Although the pledges are not due until Sept. 15, early estimates put the amount raised at “well over” $5,000, said Harald Johnson, president of Friends of Pierce Pool, a group that organized the event.

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The funds probably will be used to buy a gas heater for pool showers, which are now warmed by an old boiler unit that heats the pool and campus buildings, Johnson said.

Faced with the prospect of spending up to $10,000 for the heater, plus about $40,000 for additional repairs, officials at Pierce had considered closing the pool for several months during the winter, when heating costs rise and use of the pool traditionally drops.

“I think it would be really hard for us to close the pool now, when you consider the incredible support that was shown this weekend,” said Richard Moyer, associate dean of planning and research.


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