Man plans 13.1-mile swim for Tunnel to Towers

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

By the time most of his East Cobb neighbors are hitting the snooze button, Jim Whitcomb is already gliding through the water and counting his laps at a nearby LA Fitness.

He’ll put in two hours, maybe four. But at that, he’ll only be about halfway to 13.1 miles, his distance goal for a Sept. 9 swim challenge benefiting the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

For a second year, Whitcomb, 61, is raising money and awareness for the nonprofit close to his heart by doing something that comes naturally to him.

Tunnel to Towers (T2T) honors Brooklyn firefighter Stephen Siller who lost his life on 9/11. The nonprofit supports catastrophically injured military personnel, first responders and their families. Donations help pay off mortgages for families of fallen veterans and first responders and build smart homes for the wounded.

One evening in 2020, Whitcomb, his wife, and their three young adult children sat around the dinner table discussing the blessings they enjoy as a family.

“We realize that’s not true all around us,” said Whitcomb, a corporate financial planner. “Many people are sacrificing for us, and we talked about ways we can give back.”

Whitcomb had long wanted to do something for T2T, and his kids suggested the swim challenge. Whitcomb didn’t know if he could do it but agreed to try since he wanted to get in good physical shape anyway.

His 2021 challenge was a 10-mile swim that brought in $21,000 for the organization. He’s raising the bar this year with Swim2Help T2T, a half marathon swim, and a goal of $30,000 in donations. Contributions go directly to the nonprofit at dogood.t2t.org/swim2help. Donors can also go to his website: www.swim2help.org. Whitcomb hopes to influence others to swim for causes they support.

He trains weekday mornings at LA Fitness, but his swim challenge will be at the Mountain View Aquatic Center in Marietta, beginning at 6:30 a.m. Sept. 9. Family and friends will gather for support, and he believes it will take him 7 ½ to 8 hours to swim the 462 laps needed.

Few people thought he could complete the 10 miles during last year’s challenge. While Whitcomb swam as a kid, he has never had formal lessons or been part of a swim team. He couldn’t make it 100 yards without stopping during his initial training.

“I’m still not good, and any young or good swimmer can out-swim me quite a bit,” he said. “But this whole thing is about Tunnel to Towers, not me.”

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

For a second year, Yoshi Domoto, executive director of the Japan-America Society of Georgia, will live-stream the challenge so those who can’t come and cheer for his friend can still watch on YouTube.

“I had the pleasure of working with him last year, and it’s amazing he can swim that far,” Domoto said. “I commend his work and his passion for supporting the work of helping veterans and first responders who need support after they’ve served.”

Whitcomb is heavily involved in the Japan-American Society of Georgia, serving as vice chairman of the board. His wife is from Hong Kong; they met, married, and then lived in Japan and other Asian countries for many years.

Another longtime friend – entrepreneur and author Suresh K. Sharma – will again spend a long day counting laps to ensure Whitcomb completes them all.

There will be no high-tech watches or electronic counters. Instead, Sharma will mark the laps on paper, one by one. He said Whitcomb swims like a fish with a natural stroke, and it is inspirational to see him offer something he does well to contribute to a cause he believes in.

Two lanes are reserved for the swim challenge so supporters can swim along. Last year, Whitcomb’s friend Jim Reed, president of the YKK Corporation of America and an enthusiastic swimmer, swam the last three miles with him.

Whitcomb plans to swim 4 ½ hours nonstop, take a 15-minute break, then finish the 13.1 miles. While in the water, he hardly notices what goes on around him.

“All I do is keep my head down and look at the black line,” he said. “If I end up doing the side stroke, backstroke, or doggy paddle, that means there’s trouble.”


MORE DETAILS

Swim2Help T2T. 6:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Sept. 9. Mountain View Aquatic Center, 2650 Gordy Parkway, Marietta. 13.1-mile swim supports the military, first responders, and their families through Tunnel 2 Towers, www.T2T.org. To donate and learn more: www.swim2help.org.