Riverton Man Swims To Raise Money For MS

10:53 AM, May 31, 2013   |    comments
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RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) - Since he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009, Jacob Bailey, 26, of Riverton, said he has been learning how to take things a little slower.

"That's honestly what MS has taught me," Bailey said. "That I can relax and just accept things the way they are. It's kind of a humbling disease."

The lifelong athlete hasn't been able to play soccer for three years, and he said it's getting harder for him to compete in the hockey rink because of the symptoms of the disease, which has left his right side tingling and numb. But swimming is different.

"To stay in shape, swimming is the best non-resistance (exercise) I have for my body," Bailey said. "It's also kind of calming too."

His first experience using the pool for exercise came last year when he participated in the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America's annual Swim for MS challenge. The fundraiser encourages volunteers to collect donations based on the number of laps they swim over the course of a month.

Bailey said he taught himself some basic swimming techniques during last year's challenge, but he didn't put forth much effort when it came to fundraising.

"I didn't really keep up or really try," Bailey said.

He's making up for it this year, though. During his one-month swimming challenge that began in March, Bailey swam 700 laps -- or about 20 miles -- and he raised more than $2,000 for MSAA.

The experience has helped him develop more patience with his disease, Bailey said. When he first started swimming this year he was doing 22 laps per day, and he couldn't help but strive for more.

"I was going quick, (and) I was pushing myself to go faster," he said.

Eventually he was swimming a mile, or about 35 laps, each day, but his body couldn't keep up the pace. Bailey had to take a 10-day break from swimming because of an MS flare-up.

"I couldn't really swim at all," he said. "And when I got back, the laps were a lot harder because I hadn't been swimming. So I just started taking it easy."

Now he takes about an hour to swim a mile, whereas before he was covering the distance in a little more than 30 minutes.

"I don't want to put myself in that situation (again)," Bailey said. "Some of the time I just do it with the boogie board and work my abs the whole time."

He said his determination to continue swimming comes from the people who have supported him along the way, in particular a 16-year-old Utah girl name Anja Peterson who is confined to a wheelchair as a result of her MS. He said he met Peterson at a fundraiser in Salt Lake City.

"She wanted to Swim for MS as well -- she used to be a swimmer and she was real competitive," Bailey said. "So not only am I swimming for everyone else and myself, but mainly to honor this young woman for her strength in overcoming the obstacles that have been brought to her."

It was Peterson who inspired Bailey to extend his 30-day swim for an entire year to continue raising money for MS research. Bailey's new goal is to swim 9,000 laps in 12 months and raise $10,000 by May 2014.

"I already have 500 (laps done)," Bailey said.

He also mentioned his friend Kris Snyder, who died of muscular dystrophy in April 2012. Bailey said Snyder inspired him to start swimming for MS in the first place.

"He showed me to always be happy and keep trying and never to let this MS get me down," Bailey said. "He was my age and the true inspiration of my life."

Bailey is moving to Denver this month, but he said he will continue swimming and fundraising from there. Anyone interested in donating to the MSAA through Bailey can visit his website at support.mymsaa.org/jacobswim

KATIE ROENIGK
Riverton Ranger