Jenna Lambert's Kid 4 Kids Marathon
SHE DID IT!!!
On July 18th – 19th, in 32 hours and 18 minutes, Jenna Lambert became the first female with a physical disability to traverse the wave tossed waters of Lake Ontario!! She entered Lake Ontario in Baird Point, New York, and swam 34 kilometres to Lake Ontario Park, in Kingston, Ontario. The swim that was predicted to take 24 hours was extended when Jenna faced strong winds, and waves that pushed directly against her for the majority of the swim.
Taking on challenges isn't new to Jenna Lambert. She was born with Cerebral Palsy, a condition which affects her ability to move about independently., Jenna took on this challenge -a challenge that most able-bodied people would believe too daunting to consider, to prove to everyone watching, that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself.
The purpose of Jenna's Kid 4 Kids Marathon was to raise money in support of the Kingston Family YMCA's Y Penguins, and the new pool, which is part of the YMCA expansion. Jenna wants to give something to her teammates whom she watches improve and excel every day. She can think of no better way than by helping the Y build a much-needed pool that her team can call home, as well as to purchase some new equipment needed by the Kingston Y Penguins.
To date, Jenna's swim has raised over $200,000.00
Jenna was one of the inaugural members of the Kingston Y Penguins, a swim team for young people with physical disabilities and their able-bodied siblings. “The Kingston Family YMCA's Y Penguins are about building self-confidence. They are about showing young people that nothing is impossible – that, with hard work and determination, they can accomplish anything they set their mind on,” says Vicki Keith, Jenna's coach. “Jenna is a highly-motivated young lady with a huge heart. She sees the possibilities in herself and sees a way that she can make a positive difference in the lives of her teammates.”
Vicki clearly remembers Jenna when she first joined the Kingston Y Penguins. She recalls a10 year old with a huge smile running down the hall towards the pool aided by her walker for balance and support. It was the first Kingston Y Penguins swim practice and Jenna loved to swim.
When Jenna joined the Y Penguins in 2001, she used her walker to aid in her mobility. Since joining the swim team, Jenna's strength and coordination has improved so much that she now uses forearm crutches almost exclusively.
Right from the start, Jenna showed a strong desire to succeed, a willingness to try anything and a great talent in swimming.
At her first swim meet, just before she walked out onto the pool deck, Jenna was suddenly filled with dread. How could she walk out onto this pool deck in front of all of the able-bodied athletes and compete. The fear of not being able to keep up with the others, how her peers might look at her and what they might be thinking, stopped her in her tracks. She couldn't do it.
It took Jenna close to a year to gather the courage to compete at her first meet, but once she did, she was hooked. A year later, while standing in front of a group of adults, she explained to them that “being a part of the Y Penguins had helped her not disapprove of her disability so much.”
Jenna is a highly-talented competitive swimmer who just recently returned home from her first international level meet in London, Ontario, with 2nd and 3rd place finishes in her disability class. Although she has seen huge success in competitive swimming, Jenna says that “I feel the most joy when I can climb into a lake and find a comfortable pace and just swim. I feel like I can swim forever.”
Jenna smiled through most of her Lake Ontario crossing, appreciating the challenge and the support she was receiving from family, friends and her support crew. Even when she was at her lowest points and her arms could barely break the surface of the water, Jenna knew deep down in her heart that she would never give up. Through tears of frustration, as she struggled with exhaustion, sleep deprivation and constant winds pushing against her, Jenna looked up at her coach Vicki Keith and said “I am not going to give up. I am going to finish this.” She pushed on for hours, and when she finally approached shore, she once again looked up at her coach, smiled and swam the last strokes into shore using the butterfly stroke, just to prove that she had something left.
Natalie & Jenna Lambert
Hundreds of people lined the shore to welcome Jenna home. Jenna smiled and thanked them all for supporting her and greeted as many as possible individually before she was whisked off in a limo to a hotel for some much needed sleep.
Jenna thanks God for the opportunity to show everyone, able-bodied or disabled, that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself. The Kingston Y Penguins' slogan is “Penguins Can Fly”, and Jenna's achievement this summer has proved this to be true.
Jenna is 15 years old, and lives in Harrowsmith, Ontario, with her parents, Ron and Christine, and her sister Natalie. Natalie is also a member of the Kingston Y Penguins, and has reached the regional level in able-bodied sport. Natalie was also Jenna's swim pacer during her Lake Ontario swim. When Jenna was tired and feeling a bit lonely, Natalie jumped in the water beside her sister and swam with her for a couple of hours. One of the best aspects of the Y Penguins to Jenna and Natalie is that they can share in the joy of participating in something together.
The Kingston Y Penguins, which are part of the Kingston Family YMCA's Y Knot Programs for children with physical disabilities, supports and encourages children with disabilities to achieve new heights by strengthening their mind, spirit and body. The focus of the programs are maintaining a positive attitude and building self-confidence, all while focusing on ability.
Donations in support of Jenna's swim, can be sent by either clicking on the Canada Helps button on this web page, in person at 100 Wright Crescent, Kingston, Ontario, or by calling the Kingston Family YMCA at 613-546-2647. The YMCA is open Monday through Friday from 5:30 am to 11 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm.
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