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Middle school swim marathon raises $10,000

Swimmers complete a lap early in last weekend's swim marathon to raise money for muscular dystrophy research.

As they paddled through the final laps of a 24-hour swim marathon early Saturday night, the six members of Rosemount Middle School's TGIDI Destination ImagiNation team had visions of hot showers and soft beds. They were sore and they were tired, but they were also very, very happy.

The scribbled-out numbers posted on the walls outside the school's pool gave an indication just how happy. When the seventh graders were planning their event they had a goal of raising about $5,100 for muscular dystrophy research. The numbers, written in on white letter paper in black and blue and green marker, provide a running tally of how quickly that goal got left in their wake. They start at $6,750 and continue upward to $7,100, $7,500 and $9,500 before eventually topping $10,000.

"It's cool that this many people would come do something, even at 3 a.m.," said group member Anna Peterson. "We were only expecting 300 people and we got 500, 600."

The girls had lined up enough swimmers before the event started to fill each of the 20-minute shifts they had set up throughout the event, and people just kept coming once the event was up and running. High school students who came across the marathon brought in friends. Delta Airlines, where one team member's mother works, had a team fly in from Atlanta to swim in honor of a co-worker whose child was recently diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.

The event inspired many people to go beyond the $5 donation that was required of participants. One RMS student who showed up near the end brought a mason jar stuffed with cash she had earned running a lemonade stand. She was swimming in honor of her grandmother, who died of ALS, which is in the same family as muscular dystrophy. Another swimmer went door-to-door in her neighborhood and collected $265.

"The only people that really gave $5 were people our age who don't have big bank," said team member Maggie Moeller.

Keeping the whole thing running took a lot of work. The girls, each of whom swam more than 500 lengths of the RMS pool, managed a few hours of sleep on air mattresses and gymnastics mats in the school's auxiliary gym, but they were rousted early Sunday morning to make way for a Tai Chi class.

There were plenty of benefits, though, and they went beyond raising money. The girls also got to see their school in a new light. For the first time since kindergarten nap times, they had permission to sleep in school.

"I think the best part is getting keys to the whole building," Moeller said.

With the event over, the girls will compile their results and prepare a skit for the state DI competition in mid-April. If things go well there, they'll qualify for the global competition, where they brought home a title last year.