Swimmers take to the La Jolla waves to raise funds for veterans

By Ashley Mackin

A group of 12 San Diegans plan to swim from Catalina Island to La Jolla Cove in August as a fundraiser for the Warrior Foundation Freedom Station, and 10 of them held a practice night swim in La Jolla recently. During the May 14 night swim, the group — which calls themselves Beyond Avalon — swam from the Cove to the Marine Room and back, with glowsticks pinned to their swimsuits to they could see each other.

“The plan is to get some night swims in because it will probably take us 36 hours to swim from Catalina to La Jolla (including some night hours),” said Beyond Avalon spokesperson Will Miller. Swimming in relay, they will leave Catalina Aug. 22 and arrive in San Diego Aug. 24.

Asked why someone would want to embark on such a challenge, Beyond Avalon swimmer and La Jolla High School graduate Penny Nagel replied, “Why do people climb Mount Everest?”

Miller and fellow swimmer Lee Grove talked about doing the swim to test their own skills, but when others expressed interest in joining them, they decided to make the event a fundraiser for charity.

“We all have had friends in the military and thought (something that benefits) the military would be a great cause,” Miller said. “We all appreciate the sacrifices that veterans and their families have made, and this is just a small price to pay to repay them.”

In researching organizations that support veterans, they found Warrior Foundation Freedom Station, which spokesperson Judy Sexton said provides services to veterans in Southern California. “We’re an all-volunteer group, and 97 percent of every dollar goes to serving the injured warriors,” she said. “We support them at places like Camp Pendleton and 29 Palms, and facilities like the Naval Medical Center San Diego. We try to give them everything the government can’t or won’t.”

For example, when injured veterans come to San Diego for hospitalization, the Warrior Foundation brings their families to San Diego to greet them, when possible. Or, in the event they are hospitalized during a holiday, the foundation will fly the family out to spend the holiday with them in the hospital, Sexton said.

It also assists with transitional housing and resources to help veterans re-enter civilian life.

Those who would like to sponsor a swimmer on the aquatic trek can visit and by clicking donate, will be directed to the Warrior Foundation website. Sexton asks donors to mention Beyond Avalon in the comment section.

The swimmers of Beyond Avalon will train and raise funds until the swim, and might do a few more practice swims at the Cove. “Most of us swim together at the Cove regularly,” Miller said, “We figured why not end (the swim) at home?”