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Project Welcome

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Kingdom Swimmers - A great spirited and good-hearted Tribe of open water swimmers, but as a group, we are WAY TOO WHITE and it's about time we did something about it.

Open water swimming has grown substantially over the past 15 years. Long-standing communities of open water swimmers have strengthened and grown. Other pods have sprung up all across the nation and have blossomed and grown during this time.

During this period, the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont has become well-recognized around the country and the globe as a world class venue and unlikely mecca for open water swimming. The quality and beauty of our lakes, the low levels of boat traffic, the community of local support, and the camaraderie these events instill have all contributed to this evolution. Kingdom Games now promotes, organizes, and hosts over 50 days of swimming, summer and winter alike. Over the years, these swims have drawn thousands of swimmers and kayakers to the lakes of the NEK.

It’s been an idyllic journey, except for the fact that the population of swimmers and kayakers who have flocked to the Kingdom over the years has been largely white, which reinforces a dangerous misconception that swimming is only for people of a certain background or socioeconomic status. This is sadly because of a variety of reasons, including financial barriers, cultural factors, and a history of discrimination in swimming that have converged to limit access to local pools in the United States. That lack of access has translated into few people of color being able to and comfortable in making the transition to open water. Swimming, and open water swimming specifically, has evolved as a White Space.

Some leaders and members of the open water swimming community have recognized this is a problem and have begun making concerted efforts to promote diversity in the sport. One way to do this is by lowering the financial barriers to access. Another is to actively welcome participation by members of the BIPOC community in specific programs and events. Project Welcome aims to do both of those things with the goal of encouraging more people of color to join our merry band in the Northeast Kingdom.

We estimate that the average minimum cost of swim fees, travel, meals, and lodging at a Kingdom Games swimming event is about $1,000 per swimmer. That is what is spent for the actual event itself. It doesn’t include the cost of swimsuits, goggles, and pool fees related to training. We are looking to raise funds from the open water swimming community to allow us to WELCOME members of the BIPOC community to our swims in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont by providing a stipend of $1,000 to help cover the costs of participation. This is a chance for the swimming community to put its money where its mouth is in a very real way and send a message that we mean it when we say everyone is welcome to join us, and we will remove as many barriers as we can to make that happen. Your support not only helps fund this project, it's also a small way to say that this Welcome comes from the heart of our community.


Phil White
Newport, VT

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