Girl Scout Lexi Holsten knows what it’s like to live with pain. In sixth grade, she found out she has hemi hypertrophy, a condition where one side of the body grows faster and stronger than the other side. Surgery failed to fully correct the unevenness in her legs, so things like playing soccer or running cause neck and back pain or headaches.
Swimming on the other hand is a different story. Lexi can swim as much as she wants because it’s minimal impact exercise that causes her much less pain than other activities. In high school, she joined the Eden Prairie swim and dive team and the synchronized swimming team. She loved the water, and swimming became a true passion.
That passion turned out to be a great starting point for Lexi’s Girl Scout Gold Award project last year. Around the same time she was considering what to do for her project, she met Debbie Townsend, head coach for the Clownfish Swim Club, an organization that provides a swim team environment for kids with disabilities. With Debbie’s encouragement, Lexi began volunteering with Clownfish, and that’s when things started to click in her mind. “I could relate to how much the water is such a healer, and that’s kind of when I was like, oh my goodness, I can relate to these kids. They love to swim. I love to swim. And I think that this is a really cool opportunity for me to come in and work on my Gold Award.”
To complete her Gold Award project, Lexi took action by supporting the Clownfish Swim Club in three different ways. She created a brochure to recruit volunteers, a function that in the past was mainly done by word-of-mouth. She also created ten different lesson plans that will be used by volunteer coaches. And finally, she organized a Swim-A-Thon to collect new and gently used swimming equipment for the club.
To hold the Swim-A-Thon, Lexi rented out Eden Prairie Community Center’s pool for a Saturday afternoon. People could swim with their family or swim laps and enjoy the pool after making a donation. The event was a big success; about 100 people attended and a variety of equipment such as float belts, goggles, nose clips and swimsuits was collected for the Clownfish Swim Club.
Lexi says the best part about doing her Gold Award project was being able to work on something she was passionate about and making a difference in other kids’ lives. “It was really, really cool to see how a weakness of mine and a painful experience of mine—I kind of flipped it around and drove it into a passion, and helped kids who are going through the same thing I am. Now they can also continue to have the joy that water can bring, and they can do it in a safe way.”