On June 12, 2022, the first Perseverance Awards were presented at the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim (GCBS). Because it was the Award’s inaugural year, three awards were presented to the following people:
Megan Mackey battled scoliosis and numerous spine surgeries to become a successful physical therapist, swimmer, triathlete, and swimming coach. In her essay, Megan wrote: “Limitations don’t define you; they are only characteristics of who you can be in the face of obstacles and challenges.” Megan reminds us of how Bob overcame a stroke and blood disease to continue swimming the Bay.
At 85 years old, Ed Briggs is one of the oldest swimmers to enter the GCBS. He has finished the Swim 10 times. Of the almost 7500 swimmers that have participated in the Bay Swim, only about 250 have successfully completed it more than 10 times. In 2016, Ed wrote a very interesting and inspirational blog about his experience. His insights into the Swim reminded us of Bob’s analytical nature, and his perseverance despite an artificial hip and an aging body also reminded us of Bob.
Joe Stewart is a giant in the swimming community – both as a swimmer and a swim organizer, he has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit the region’s bay and rivers, as well as AIDS organizations. Joe has written a series of inspirational essays called Swimming on Mars in which he documents the challenges he faced early in life – the confusion and isolation surrounding his sexuality and fear of AIDS – and his experiences swimming the Bay and elsewhere. Joe created the Potomac River Swim for the Environment, which Bob completed many times before his stroke. Bob knew Joe well and spoke of him with deep respect and appreciation.
Megan, Ed, and Joe all talked about mental toughness in their writings. They reminded us that it’s not just swimming skills that get the swimmers across the Bay each year, but mental toughness as well – mental toughness and perseverance. Congratulations to the award recipients and many thanks to those who nominated them.
Thanks also to Bob’s family, his friends Jim and Jane, and many other friends for their assistance in creating the Foundation and this award. A very special thank you to Brian Earley, whose expertise and encouragement were invaluable in launching the RJA Foundation and the Perseverance Award. It was Brian who founded the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim when he swam the Bay solo in 1982.