SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - UC Santa Barbara swimmer Daniel Marella's exhausting swim on Saturday morning was both memorable and meaningful.
The rising junior and swim team captain swam from Isla Vista to Santa Barbara's Leadbetter Beach--a distance of 10 miles--to raise money for Cottage Hospital's fight against COVID-19.
“He felt really strongly about Cottage Hospital and what all the front line workers are doing there,” said Dawn Schroeder, a community volunteer and UCSB alum who helped organize the swim. “And so that’s when we all dove in.”
Schroeder says Marella--whose fall swim season is postponed due to the pandemic--had recently completed a six-mile ocean swim when he got the idea to push for 10 miles, and to use the swim as a fundraiser for an important cause.
The goal was to raise $10,000. As of Sunday evening, Marella says the swim has raised more than $12,000.
That money will help fund special kits for people infected with COVID-19, but not acutely ill enough to spend time in the hospital. The kits can help those patients monitor symptoms. The money also helps Cottage Health employees receive grants to make payments, as the pandemic-induced financial crisis continues.
“We’re very blessed, we’re very grateful,” said Dave Dietrich, VP of Advancement at Cottage Health.
“I think it is so inspiring that someone that’s 20 years old would think so globally and so big,” Schroeder said. “And wanting to do something. It makes us feel good about our future.”
Marella completed the swim with friends and family cheering him on and teammates and supporters by his side. Teammate William Schodorf and former Gaucho swimmer Kevin Mendoza swam with Marella the entire way. He also had help from friends in kayaks and on a paddle-board, as well as people on land, to make sure his path was clear and safe.
"This is not just me, this was a team effort. I want to make that clear," Marella said.
There was rain, thunder and lightning in the area during the swim but the crew decided to push through. Marella said a pod of about 10 dolphins swam with him and the crew about midway through the journey.
“I’m not gonna lie, those last three miles was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “But I’m glad to have my crew with me and everyone here. Especially my family to come out and watch."
Marella also wanted to use his voice to send a message to his peers and the country at large.
“America’s not really doing a great job right now, to be completely honest,” he said. “I think people my age need to grow up. If you guys wanna party, wear a mask for two months and you can have parties… Grow up and wear a mask. You know, it’s nothing political. The nation’s divided right now. We need to come together and just kick this virus out of the way."