Alex Fullman has always loved to swim. He started when he was 2 years old and began swimming competitively at 6. So when representatives of American Red Magen David for Israel (ARMDI) visited his sixth-grade class at Heschel Day School to encourage students to consider making a donation as part of their bar or bat mitzvah year, Alex decided to combine his love of swimming with the needs of ARMDI. The organization provides emergency medical services throughout Israel.
The ARMDI Swim-a-Thon took place June 1 at the West Valley Jewish Community Center, drawing 51 participants and raising more than $3,300 for the organization. Participants obtained donation pledges linked to the number of laps they swam or arranged a single contribution.
"I wanted to support Israel, and I wanted everyone -- not just Jewish people -- to come," Fullman said.
Two members of the UCLA swim team, Nicole Beck and Marilyn Chua, a 2000 Olympics competitor from Malaysia, were on hand to provide coaching for the swimmers. Members of Valley Beth Shalom's United Synagogue Youth group, of which Fullman is a member, participated, as did the center's Young at Heart Club.
Fullman's parents, Sandra Kossacoff and Howard Fullman, said the event became a family project. Younger brother Casey, 9, roped friends into participating.
Alex Fullman, who will celebrate his bar mitzvah at Valley Beth Shalom on Sept. 6, said he hopes the swim-a-thon's success will encourage other youngsters to find a creative way to support their favorite charity.
"Some people's bar mitzvahs are completely unrelated to the word mitzvah," he said. "Even though a bar mitzvah is a simcha [joy], it's still important for people to do things like this."