'Swim With Mike' event keeps hope afloat for athletes with disabilities

Mike Nyeholt
Mike Nyeholt
Rebecca Soni
Rebecca Soni

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

MANOA (KHNL) - Hawaii athletes with disabilities due to an accident or disease, got help and hope on Saturday. The annual 'Swim With Mike' fundraiser kicked off it's fifth year in Hawaii.

The event proved that not even tragedy can paralyze the mind or spirit.

At the University of Hawaii at Manoa's Duke Kahanamoku swimming pool, every dip and every dive was a breath of fresh air for those who have been paralyzed by a traumatic accident or illness.

"I broke my neck in a dirt bike accident 29 years ago, going on 29 years, which left me paralyzed from the chest down," said Mike Byeholt, a three-time All-American University of Southern California swimmer.

Nyeholt is the name behind the swim-a-thon, which raises scholarship money for young athletes who have overcome the same obstacles mike has.

"Get them an education get them back contributing to society, making a life for themselves after they've suffered an injury or illness that left them physically challenged," said Nyeholt.

Making a splash appearance at this year's 'Swim With Mike' event was 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Rebecca Soni, who gave some underwater advice to future Olympic hopefuls.

"I know there might not be a lot of breast stroke teaching around here especially with open water, you're all free style and stuff like that so they're excited to swim a little bit and it was fun," said Soni.

And while some of those who attended the event may be seem bound, it's clear that with every lap completed, their spirits know no boundaries.

Since the 'Swim With Mike' event was born, it has raised nearly $9 million, benefiting 77 scholarship recipients in schools across the country.

The fundraiser started after Nyeholt's friends raised money to buy him a specially equipped van after his accident. Nyeholt says his friends ended up raising too much money, and suggested putting the leftover dollars in a scholarship fund. The next year, what's now known as the 'Swim With Mike' event blossomed into an annual fundraiser.