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Swim with Mike: Annual fund-raiser expands to aid non-USC students

It’s going to be a great big beach party, sans the beach.

A host of musicians and singers including the Coveralls, the Sirens, the SoCal Vocals and the Trojan Marching Band will supply the sounds. Oscar Mendoza will be cooking up his finger-licking-good barbecue. Trojan Olympic swimmers and their coaches will be lifeguards, and New York Giant Jason Sehorn is the guest of honor.

And, of course, Mike’s going to be there.

It’s the 21st annual Swim With Mike on April 21, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at McDonald’s Swim Stadium.

In 1981, Trojan swimmers put together a little fund-raiser to buy a van with hand controls for a teammate, All-American swimmer Mike Nyeholt, who had broken his neck in a motorcycle accident. They called it Swim for Mike – and surprised themselves by raising far more than they needed for the van. Then Nyeholt provided another surprise by showing up only hours after he was released from the hospital.

Nyeholt suggested giving the extra money to other physically challenged athletes like himself so that they could attend USC. He asked everyone to come back next year to do it all again and said that he would swim too.

Twenty years and almost $3 million later, he’s still coming back to swim. More than 30 high school and college athletes, including 10 currently enrolled, have received financial aid to attend USC from Nyeholt’s Physically Challenged Scholarship Fund. The scholarships provide tuition, room and board, books and on-campus transportation.

“This year there is an option on the donation card so that donors can make funds available to other universities,” said Associate Athletic Director Ron Orr, Nyeholt’s college roommate and fellow All-American swimmer. “This is the first step to expanding the scholarship program, because the need is there.”

Orr said that former Trojan cornerback and safety Jason Sehorn will receive the Gerald and Betty Ford Award for his work helping underprivileged single-parent families through his foundation, Jason’s Corner. A seven-year NFL veteran, Sehorn plays cornerback for the New York Giants, the team that played in the Superbowl this year and lost to the Baltimore Ravens. Sehorn played for the Trojans in 1992 and 1993 and graduated with a degree in communications.

Swim With Mike will also celebrate the 80th birthday of former head swim coach Peter Daland. In his 35 years at USC, Daland’s teams won nine NCAA championships, 17 AAU titles and finished first or second in the nation a phenomenal 21 times. He was Nyeholt’s coach at USC and returns to Swim With Mike annually to run a workout for master’s swimmers (8:30 a.m.).

Current USC head swim coach and Olympic head coach Mark Schubert, the Trojan swim team and past Trojan greats such as John Naber (four Olympic golds) and Bruce Furniss (two Olympic golds) will be on hand for the 10 a.m. stroke clinic.

In addition to the usual silent auction and raffle, Swim With Mike will be stocked with “garage sale” goods. Liz Kennedy, USC’s director of trademarks and licensing, said the bookstore has a large number of product samples that were submitted to USC in hopes that they could be approved for sale with the USC logo.

“There are collectibles, including Christmas collectibles, neon signs and every conceivable type of clothing and fight item,” said Kennedy. “The higher- end products will be in the silent auction, but the rest will be ‘garage saled.’ We are prepared to negotiate.”

Of course, there will be the usual kids’ corner, an exhibition by Trojan divers, the always startling display of aquatic skills by the Trojan football team, the Song Girls and lots and lots of people swimming laps with Mike.

And at the end of it all, Mike’s scholarship fund should be another $350,000 richer.

For more information about Swim With Mike, call (213) 740-4155.

Swim with Mike: Annual fund-raiser expands to aid non-USC students

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