The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

July 13, 2014

Swimmers prep for YMCA benefit swims

ASHTABULA — A group of area long distance swimmers are preparing for an international swim and a shorter event, along the Ashtabula Breakwall, to help raise money for the Ashtabula YMCA‘s pool and equipment.

On Aug. 2, nine area swimmers are planning to swim from Long Point Ontario to Erie to help raise money to make the Ashtabula County YMCA pool more handicap friendly.

Katie Petro, 14, of Ashtabula, decided it would be a good project as she is regular swimmer at the YMCA and dealing with Osteogenesis Imperfecta.

The condition, also known as brittle bone disease, is genetic and involves weakened bones that are easy to break.

Petro said she became interested in swimming because she is unable to participate in other sports because of her condition. She said she swims about five miles a day and hopes to swim the entire way from Canada to Erie.

“I swim two to four times a day,” she said.

Petro said she is determined to make a difference and hopes the swim will help make people aware of the need for handicap accessibility at the YMCA.

“I’m just happy to be a part of the team,” said Frank Calogero who is one of the swimmers. He said he has done all of his swimming in a pool and is learning how to swim in open water.

Calogero said swimming in open water can be a challenge because of currents, lack of specific swimming lanes and undertow to name a few.

“Bob (Ward) has been teaching us,” he said.

Ward is a long time swimming instructor at the YMCA and is a veteran of open water swimming.

A small group of swimmers swim several miles a day in open water. He said sometimes a boater will take him and his partners three miles out into the lake and drop them for the swim back.

“We swim about two miles an hour,” he said.

On Aug. 2 a kayak will lead Petro and a second kayak will paddle directly with her as a boat follows with swimmers and support crews, said A.J. Petro of the YMCA acquatics department.

Eight swimmers will take turns swimming legs of the event. Bob Ward, Steve Wychock, Bruce Wyand, Jeff Albert, A.J. Petro, Frank Calogero, Chris Spring and Tia Spronz are hoping to make the swim with Katie Petro.

While Katie Petro hopes to swim the 25 miles the other swimmers will be swimming rotating legs during the event that will likely take 18 hours and include some overnight swimming.

Anyone interested in donating to the cause can visit or for further information.

Another swimming event is scheduled for 9 a.m. July 20 at Walnut Beach, Ward said. He said the event is open to anyone interested in swimming 2.4 miles on Lake Erie to help raise money for the acquatics equipment at the YMCA.

 “We are going to have a string of buoys  and a line of boats further out in the water,” Ward said explaining the course that will start at Walnut Beach and go to a pontoon near the Ashtabula Lighthouse and then return to the beach.

The event costs $35.

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