BURNET — Soon after 3-year-old Callen Otto was diagnosed with cancer, Burnet high school and middle school swimmers decided to combine their love of the water and their affection for his family to raise money for his medical expenses.
The athletes collected $2,000 in a Laps for Leukemia fundraiser March 23 at the YMCA of the Highland Lakes at Galloway-Hammond. Sponsors gave money for each lap a swimmer completed or donated a flat fee when the athletes sought out backers.
“I think it brought us closer together as friends and family,” said junior swimmer Dustin Barnett, who swam 66 laps, which is the equivalent of one mile. “It helped us work together as one and provided a family with help they needed.”
Senior Joseph Hugunin, who wants to join the swim team at Texas A&M University, said once he heard about the fundraiser, he decided to change some of his plans.
“Normally, seniors don’t have to come (to workouts) after the season is over,” he said. “We all got together and swam together. We talked about it and encouraged each other.”
He swam 80 laps, which is a little more than a mile, calling that an average workout for himself.
For Hugunin, the fundraiser was personal. He lost his father, David, to cancer in September.
“It was a good experience,” he said. “I wish I could have swam more.”
Head coach Nancy Moore said the Waterdogs got the idea for the fundraiser from a group in Houston that used the same concept. Convincing her swimmers to participate in the fundraiser wasn’t difficult, she said.