History

Swim with Mike – helping disabled athletes find a new purpose in life through academic scholarships nationwide.

Swim with Mike is an annual swim-a-thon held to raise money for the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund. Established in 1981, the Swim was scheduled to be a one-time event organized by friends and teammates on behalf of Mike Nyeholt, a three time All-American swimmer, who was paralyzed from the chest down following a motorcycle accident suffered in January of 1981.

Initially called Swim for Mike, the event was first held on March 7, 1981, to raise money to purchase a specially equipped van for Nyeholt. A week prior to the first Swim, Nyeholt was still in the hospital, and his supporters planned to show him a video of the fund-raiser once it was over. To everyone’s surprise, Nyeholt traveled by ambulance to make an appearance at the first event. More than $58,000 was raised that day, far exceeding the amount needed to purchase the van. At Mike’s suggestion, the excess funds were used to create the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund at the University of Southern California, the only one of its kind in the country.

Inspired by the overwhelming support, Nyeholt promised to swim in the future to raise money for the other disabled athletes. He kept his promise and swam the following year, and with his participation in the pool, Swim for Mike was appropriately renamed Swim with Mike. Nyeholt now co-chairs the organizing committee for the annual event, which has raised nearly $22 million and provided over 232 scholarships to Physically Challenged Athletes at 123 universities from Massachusetts to Hawaii.

On March 5, 2005 Swim With Mike held its first annual satellite swim at the University of Hawaii’s Duke Kahanamoku Aquatics Complex. It was a huge success bringing Hawaii’s sports and aquatics communities together for a great cause. We are now in our 15th successful year of this annual event and are a part of the iconic Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

Swim with Mike recipients are planning events in their hometowns and on their campuses swimming themselves and/or recruiting friends and family to swim, walk, roll, run, dive or float on their behalf. Our 2019 satellite events will be held at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, Danville, CA and the Waikiki Roughwater Swim in Hawaii.

If you are interested in organizing a Swim with Mike event, fundraising or have any questions, please contact us at info@swimwithmike.org.

1981

The Swim For Mike event raised $58,000 and Mike surprised all the supporters with his first visit out of the hospital.

1982

Mike swims at Swim With Mike and we awarded our first physically challenged athletes scholarships to Becki McCafferty and Kevin Lewis.

1983

Swim With Mike was first function at new McDonald’s 1984 Olympic pool on USC campus. McDonald’s presented a sponsorship donation in support of the physically challenged athletes scholarship fund.

1985

Amputee Jeff Keith ran 8 months, 16 miles a day from Boston to Marina del Rey, was first amputee to run across America. When he finished, Mike greeted him with a SWM scholarship for graduate school.

1988

Established “Gerald and Betty Ford People Helping People Award” recognizing philanthropic individuals. President Ford was key part of SWM’s history as Mike gave him swim lessons at Ford’s desert home.

1990

Mike visits President Reagan at president’s Century City office thanking him for his personal check on occasion of 10 years after President Reagan had sent letter to Mike while in hospital in 1981.

1991

10 year anniversary and we raised $700,000 since 1981 and provided 20 scholarships. Mike presents the 1991 People Helping People Award to Betty White in recognition of her philanthropic activities.

1996

$1.3 million total raised! 28 total recipients! Mike receives the California Governor’s Award from Pete Wilson.

1999

USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann presented People Helping People Award by 1998 awardee Wallis Annenberg, along with SWM scholarship recipient Rob Mucho (USC Marketing ‘86, MBA Marketing CSULB ‘93)

2001

20 years of Swim With Mike and 38 scholarships provided, nearly $3 million raised.

2005

Swim With Mike’s first satellite fundraising event is at University of Hawai’i, where our physically challenged athletes scholarship recipient, Keith Kitamura was earning Masters Degree in Teaching.

2007

Established “Claire Snow Volunteer of the Year Award” in honor of longtime volunteer who lost her battle with cancer. Inaugural honoree Oscar Mendoza, presented by Claire’s daughters Becky and Liz.

2008

Swim With Mike satellite fundraising event at University of Connecticut is initiated by recipient Joe Zinski. The Mayr Foundation gives the largest gift we have ever received!

2010

30 year anniversary and SWM is still going strong with total of 92 scholarships and over $10 million raised! What a reason to celebrate, so we did!

2010

Future SWM scholarship recipient and #61 Jake Olson wins 30th Anniversary at the Annenberg Community Beach House First Lap as he swam against USC Quarterback Matt Barkley and Center Kris O’Dowd.

2015

35th Annual Swim With Mike was first event held at the new USC Uytengsu Aquatics Center. Shown here is Mike with Fred Uytengsu, the 1983 Swim Team Captain and for whom the aquatics center is named.

2016

Over 35 years of Swim with Mike and we’re stronger than ever.

2018

38th Annual Swim With Mike and nearly $22 million total raised, 232 total scholarships provided at 123 universities nationwide.

2018

Swim With Mike satellite events now being held at Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, Danville and in conjunction with Waikiki Roughwater Swim.