By Carla Kolbe
NORTHVILLE - Mary-Kate Poulin is going for her own personal gold, swimming across the Great Sacandaga Lake on Sunday morning. There will be no medal at the finish, but the supreme satisfaction of accomplishing a goal set high with pure dedication and love.
Last summer, Poulin raised nearly $8,000 for the organization Autism Speaks, and raised awareness for the cause. Poulin’s driving force is her younger brother, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition on the Autism spectrum. This summer the 16-year-old is attempting to raise even more money, and more importantly to her, the awareness autism deserves.
She said the idea began last year with an ongoing joke in her family. From there she coordinated a ‘Swim for Autism’ with a goal of raising $1,000 for the organization. Her goal was far surpassed as money and support for the event grew.
“I love to swim, and this was just something I knew I could do for the cause” she said.
Last summer, Poulin and partners Chris Mosconi of Gloversville and Jade and Justine Woodend of Mayfield swam from Seven Hills Road to Northampton Marina in the the town of Northampton — a 2.2-mile swim against the current of the Great Sacandaga Lake.
This weekend Poulin and Mosconi are going to double the distance, leaving the marina, swimming to Seven Hills Road and back again.
“I’m anxious, not nervous,” said Poulin. “It’s definitely not going to be as easy as last time.”
The swim duo has been practicing and will be ready for Sunday’s challenge.
Lara Collazo, Team Up. Development Manager for Autism Speaks in Davenport, Fla., said it is amazing that someone so young can be forging the way for the organization. She has taken the helm, organized and executed the event, even contacting the media and getting the proper attention.
“This effort really does have an impact,” said Collazo. “Mary-Kate is truly an inspiration, and I wish other teenagers would use her as a role model.”
Autism Speaks has sent Poulin swim caps and clothing to help promote autism awareness at the event. Collazo said this is the only awareness campaign in the Capital District.
Poulin, who plans to attend law school upon her high school graduation, said it is her responsibility to raise awareness in this area for the foundation and for autism.
Rain or shine, Poulin and Mosconi will begin their swim around 5:30 a.m. Sunday.
Donations can be mailed to Mary-Kate Poulin at PO Box 1231, Northville or at http://events.autismspeaks.org/myevent/swimforautism.