Caroline K is a Girl Scout in Coral Gables, FL who is passionate about two things – swimming and philanthropy. As a high school athlete and Girl Scout ambassador, Caroline set out to help support the Junior Orange Bowl’s Sports Ability Games, an inspirational 3-day event which includes a series of athletic events specifically created for young adaptive athletes. When she realized the organization struggled with both participation and securing resources for the swimming portion of the games, Caroline stepped in to help and the idea for her Gold Award project, See + Swim was born.
Through Caroline’s tenacity and dedication, she was able to implement long-standing improvements to branding, increased participation by introducing the program to over 150 new families and secured much-needed resources for the event including a pair of googles for each participant. Her passion for the sport and seeing children succeed makes us confident that the impact she made on the Junior Orange Bowl Sport’s Ability Games will live on far into the future.
Tell us about your project
As a swimmer and water polo player, swimming is my passion. When speaking with the Junior Orange Bowl about their Sports Ability Games, I discovered that their special needs children did not have the proper equipment, like caps or goggles to participate and their enrollment in the games was low. I came up with an idea of "See + Swim" to promote awareness and increase engagement for the competition while also collecting the apparel required for the adaptive swimmers to participate in the games.
Outside of improving engagement for the Sea + Swim program, I also noticed that Junior Orange Bowl had logos for almost every sport but swimming. I worked with their committee and they now have not only a swimming logo, but a whole new logo for the swimming portion of the Sports Ability Games called the "Swimming Classic" that has been specifically adopted for the event. The children are so happy to be a part of this swimming event.
How is your project continue on into the future?
My project is sustained beyond my involvement by being able to pass it on to the Junior Orange Bowl's youth ambassadors. Each year Junior Orange Bowl provides young women the opportunity to be engaged with the community through community service projects that instill leadership skills. My project of See + Swim will now become a community service project that a youth ambassador will be able to carry on every year for the Junior Orange Bowl Sports Ability Games Swimming Classic.
What gave you the inspiration to approach this topic the way that you did?
I love children and being able to work with children was most inspiring to me. I wanted adaptive swimmers to be able to experience a fun swim competition just like I do at my high school.
Why is this project important to you, personally?
Whether you’re having fun, practicing, competing in the water, as a swimmer and water polo player I understand the importance of having the proper equipment. I also love working with children and when I discovered that the Junior Orange Bowl’s Swimming portion of the Sports Ability Games did not provide any equipment for the special needs children participating in their event, I knew I had to make a difference in these adaptive swimmers lives and make sure they were able to experience a true competition in every way.
What was the biggest challenge you overcame and how?
I partnered with the Junior Orange Bowl and created an outreach plan to encourage Miami-Dade Public Schools to get involved by highlighting the benefits with a personalized video encouraging kids to participate. After COVID hit, I had to re-evaluate my original outreach plan as Miami-Dade Public Schools were not going to participate.
Through perseverance and a great deal of research, I learned that many private schools, clubs, and organizations were still participating in swimming. I continued with my plan to encourage adaptive swimmers, just through a different means and as a result, my video reached participants of over 150 clubs, schools, organizations and their families.
This in turn gave more children the opportunity to participate and experience a competitive swimming event where they could enjoy the water and have fun with other adaptive swimmers. In fact, this helped increase awareness, so while MDPS’s lack of participation started as a challenge, it really turned out to be a benefit in the long run. In addition, I spearheaded a donation drive for goggles in various locations like University of Miami Wellness Center, Westminster Pool, Palmetto Middle School, and Miami Palmetto Senior High School with the goal of collecting new and gently used goggles for the participants. Thanks to the support of my peers and community participation, each swimmer was given a new pair while adhering to hygiene and safety regulations.
How does this project contribute to your goals for the future?
This project has prepared me for the real world and especially in addressing challenging situations head on. One of my goals for the future is to work with children and this project allowed me to have a hands-on experience in doing just that.
What did you learn about your community in this process?
I learned that my community is incredibly generous not only in coming together to help me attain my Gold Award, but in making sure that adaptive swimmers of the Junior Orange Bowl Swimming Classic were able to get a better experience than they had before. So many people in the community were willing to give their time in order to make this event possible and I will forever be grateful for everyone involved from the Junior Orange Bowl Committee to the many schools, clubs and organizations involved.
What did you learn about YOURSELF?
I learned that I could communicate well with my team. I also learned that not everything goes as planned and that I needed to be patient and understand that the reasons for many of my obstacles were due to the pandemic. I also learned that I could persevere even though the obstacles were great and have the flexibility needed for the many changes to my project.
Girl Scouts has made me a better leader and a contributor to my community.