North York Mirror
When Arash Bahrami was just eight years old, he had a near-death experience almost drowning in water.
More than two decades later, he never learned to swim until late last year at the North York YMCA near Bayview and Sheppard avenues.
To give back for learning what he called a "lifesaving skill," Bahrami swam 50 laps earlier this month as part of the YMCA Megathon event that raised awareness and funds to battle childhood obesity.
"It's not just a sport," said Bahrami, who credited Jorge Rojas, general manager of the North York YMCA, for teaching him personally how to swim. "I said I wish I could swim. It was a big failure in my life."
But by Christmastime last year, Bahrami was going to the pool about five times a week and swimming seven laps back and forth.
"It was phenomenal and I thought, 'Mission accomplished,'" Bahrami said.
But he recalled that Rojas told him to keep going to reach an even bigger accomplishment. That's when Bahrami met with the director of acquatics at the YMCA and learned how to swim with endurance.
On March 3, Bahrami swam his 50 laps, doing his part for the 24-hour swimathon for the YMCA, which had a goal to raise $150,000 across the Greater Toronto Area in one day.
That would provide 365 kids a one-year membership to the YMCA where the younger generation can learn to swim earlier in life.
"Kids are in a much better position to learn how to swim," said Bahrami.
Celecia Partap, public relations manager of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, said they actually surpassed their initial goal, raising $195,000 - enough for 477 kids to receive one-year memberships.
"The community really came out to support this cause," said Partap, especially noting the support they received from members of the North York YMCA. "It's one of our top fundraising centres."