Mercer Island prepares for swim around the Rock for charity
By MEGAN MANAGAN
Mercer Island Reporter Reporter
August 18, 2011 · Updated 12:36 PM
Last year it was cool and windy. The wind was blowing so hard Gabe Tse and his swimming partner had a hard time even moving forward.
This year, when Tse swims around Mercer Island to raise money for World Vision, he hopes the wind takes a break.
Tse will make the 14.6 mile trek around the Island on Aug. 19, raising money for World Vision and specifically the St. Elizabeth school in Kenya.
“The school there helps girls who have been affected by mutilation and early marriage,” said Tse. “It gives them an outlet.”
Jonas Carlson, the Puget Sound area director for World Vision, said the school gives the girls access to not only an education, but also clean drinking water and a place to bath.
Tse started raising money for the school last year, through various events like the swim, but mostly through the tutoring program, Educaid, that he started at Mercer Island High School. It paired high school kids with students in middle school and elementary school.
Carlson, who has worked with the Tse family for several years, said Tse approached him about a place that could benefit from projects he was working on. Carlson introduced Tse to Microsoft executive Margo Day who was working to fund the St. Elizabeth project.
“After we shared with Gabe what World Vision was doing in this Kenyan community to change lives, his excitement grew and he decided he would do what he could to add his support to these girls and help make a difference,” said Carlson.
Day got involved in the project in late 2009, when she went to African on vacation, seeing the work that World Vision was doing. After seeing the work being done there, she said she quickly got involved and thanks to many people at Microsoft and the greater community, they raised $366,000 for the school.
“We are now fundraising for an additional $115,000 to build housing for the secondary school teachers and an additional rescue center for girls,” said Day. “To see Gabe’s incredible heart to make a different in the lives of girls thousands of miles away and his selflessness in how he pursues his goal is nothing short of remarkable.”
The school currently has 73 students, and over the next two years will increase that number to 200.
Last year Tse’s friend was doing the swim as part of his culminating project and asked if he’d join. This year Tse is swimming with Madeleine Chandless, who is doing the swim as her culminating project. Chandless’ mother and sister will be kayaking around the Island with the pair.
“We’re starting at the Mercer Island Beach Club, probably about 7:30 or 8 a.m.,” said Tse. “Last year it took seven hours, but it was really windy, so windy it hardly felt like we were moving sometimes.”
He said he hopes they will finish in about the same about of time, but said after taking a break from swimming for several months at the end of his high school career, he knows he isn’t in as good of shape as he was last year.
“I took a break from swimming in March, after the high school team was done and I didn’t swim for months. I started again in July with the Chinook Aquatic Club,” he said.
Tse’s first swim in the lake was just a couple of weeks ago, and he said the water was a little cool, but thanks to the warmer weather it’s gotten better. Despite the water being warmer, he’s still putting on a wet suit for the swim around the Island.
So far he’s raised about $1,500 for the school, Tse said. His goal was about $3,500 last year, and this year he’s partnered up with Day.
Her goal was $40,000 – a long ways from the $3,500 Tse had expected.
“It was a bit of a shock,” said the swimmer. “Checks are trickling in and it’s really exciting.” Tse said they are hoping to raise the vast majority of the total amount during the swim.
“My hope for his swim would be that through his efforts many more people on Mercer Island and in the Seattle area would come to know more about what girls in some parts of Africa are facing, and that by helping to provide educational opportunities we can give real, tangible hope for a better future,” said Carlson. “I think it takes real courage for a 17 year old man to step up and try to make a difference for others, and I would love for lots of people to show their support and affirm his for doing this.”
Tse, a lifelong swimmer, said he learned how to swim before he could walk, taking those early strokes at Mary Wayte Pool. Now that he’s graduated from MIHS, he’s heading to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland where he was accepted to a six year medical program.
“It’s kind of like a fast track, instead of four years for undergrad and another four for med school,” he said.
Before he heads across the big pond, he’s going to have to get around the smaller one first.
To learn more or to donate, contact Tse at email@example.com or Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Mercer Island Reporter Reporter Megan Managan at email@example.com or (206) 232-1215 ext. 5054.