752,000 Reasons To Be Thankful In Tampa Bay

752,000 Reasons To Be Thankful In Tampa Bay

Courtesy of John Doolittle, Tampa Bay, Florida.

Talk about a wholly unexpected year. As Kurt Ott, Event Director of the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim, described, “This past year has been crazy, and we’ve seen so many events being cancelled, including most Navy SEAL Foundation events, but our entire team felt strongly about making the 2021 Tampa Bay Frogman Swim happen

We did that and more…pulling off a successful and smoothly run event attended by so many appreciative swimmers, supporters, and Goldstar families. And to cap it all off, we reached a new high in fundraising dollars, which was so important to the Navy SEAL Foundation this year as they saw a big drop in donations and fundraising.  Despite all the hurdles, we raised a new high of US$752,000.”

John Doolittle, namesake for the event’s John Doolittle Spirit of the Naked Warrior, said, “This was our best year ever.  $752,000…even with fewer volunteers, fewer participants, and all the challenges of COVID.”

The event honors a number of people through four unique awards that have historical reasons for being.

John Doolittle Spirit of the Naked Warrior: The forerunners of today’s Navy SEALS are the WWII Frogmen, often referred to as the Naked Warriors. These commandos cleared the beaches of Normandy and the Pacific Islands wearing nothing more than their swim trunks, mask and fins. In this spirit, on January 3rd 2010, with a record low air temperature of 37°F, and a water temperature of 55°F, CDR John Doolittle, chose to swim wearing only a Speedo in honor of wounded warrior, fellow Navy SEAL LT Dan Cnossen, the namesake of the inaugural swim. When asked at the finish why he only wore a Speedo, he responded in true “Naked Warrior” spirit – “I wanted to make it as hard as possible, because wounded SEALs like Dan Cnossen have a much harder road to recovery than I’ll ever know.” The John Doolittle Spirit of the Naked Warrior recipients over the years include:

CAPT Norm Ott Service/Leadership Award: Norm Ott served his country and community as a Navy SEAL with the Frogmen Underwater Demolition Teams and the CIA during Vietnam, the Cold War and later as the senior CIA Intelligence Advisor to CENTCOM during Operation Desert Storm. Norm was a loving husband & father, football, basketball, soccer coach, tennis league organizer and Boy Scout Master. Norm also served for many years as the President of the Tampa Bay UDT/SEAL Association Chapter president. He was known for his selfless volunteering, and by the mantra “if you ever need anybody to do anything, I will consider doing it.” The CAPT Norm Ott Service/Leadership Award recipients over the years include:

When Dan Cnossen, a Kansas native, arrived at the US Naval Academy, he had never seen an ocean and did not know how to swim.  By the time he left in 2002 he was an accomplished triathlete.  “Life is all about extremes” he always told his friends.  On September 7, 2009, while leading his SEALs in combat in Afghanistan, LT Cnossen stepped on a land mine.  Less than four months after losing both legs, he competed in his first half marathon, finishing fourth in the wheel chair division, in freezing rain and snow.  Now a lieutenant commander, Cnossen has since gone on to become a successful Paralympic athlete competing in cross country skiing and biathlon.

The Above and Beyond Award is given to those who exemplify the spirit of the the awards namesake, Dan Cnossen, the beneficiary of the inaugural swim.  The recipient will have show that spirit either physically, emotionally and/or mentally to go above and beyond while supporting the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim and the Naval Special Warfare community. Its recipients include:

The Spirit of Tampa Bay Award was created to honor the legacy of event co-founder Terry Tomalin, who lived life with unbridled enthusiasm and a deep love for his family, community and environment. An expert outdoorsman, Terry used his journalistic gift to share his amazing adventures inspiring countless people to not just admire but step into nature. He was a friend to those big and small, dedicating his time to leading a Boy Scout troop, mentoring children and adults, while giving countless volunteer hours to help orchestrate the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim. Terry was always thinking of others and went above and beyond, inspiring each person who crossed his path. Always living life to the fullest and with the greatest of passion, Terry once wrote “I used to think attitude was everything, now I know it’s the only thing”.

The Spirit of Tampa Bay Award is bestowed upon a Frogman Swim supporter who has shown a passion and put forth the extra effort to lead in the community, outdoors, Scouts or any other areas close to Terry’s heart. “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do nothing for him.” Its recipients include:

The Tampa Bay Frogman Swim was nominated for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year award: Charity swims attract all kinds of open water swimmers, from passionate environmentalists and those who remember the namesake of the event to local athletes and those who are simply drawn to the cause. The Tampa Bay Frogman Swim is supported by a wide spectrum of athletes, working exceptionally hard to honor and support the event’s beneficiary: the Navy SEAL Foundation. The 5 km swim in Tampa Bay, Florida is the world’s highest grossing charity swim per swimmer that raised over $725,000 in its 2019 event with only 164 swimmers. Because 100% of the proceeds support wounded and fallen Navy SEALs and their families, the success of this event is off the charts. Its start is solemn with a dignified military ceremony that is reflective and dramatic. The swim is not easy with swirling currents and low water temperatures, symbolic of the challenges that Navy SEALs face. Its finish is festive and celebratory. For the all-volunteer professional organization of the event by retired military officers, for the safe production of a challenging swim that has since expanded throughout the United States, for the selfless and extraordinarily generous support of military personnel and their families, the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim in Florida is a worthy nominee for the 2019 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year.

Top 10 female finishers in 2020:

  1. Brooke Bennett (39) 1:03:36.1
  2. Chelsea Nauta (31) 1:06:10.7
  3. Callie Ott (15) 1:12:30.4
  4. Lisa Broadfield (41) 1:15:53.4
  5. Dawn Clark (55) 1:19:01.8
  6. Reagan Quilty (19) 1:20:57.1
  7. Maren Lynch (42) 1:25:45.7
  8. Denise Priddy (56) 1:25:46.9
  9. Tori Crawford (46) 1:26:35.6
  10. Tamara McKenzie-Hartman (39) 1:27:01.9

Top 10 male finishers in 2020:

  1. Thomas Ray (16) 1:03:40.2
  2. Matt Getty (44) 1:04:51.7
  3. Thorn Baccich (36) 1:08:24.3
  4. Gary Raketich (40) 1:08:35.7
  5. James Battista (39) 1:10:57.2
  6. Daniel Newhaller (60) 1:12:53.3
  7. John Doolittle (50) 1:13:04.4
  8. Roger Brunelle (46) 1:13:37.7
  9. Brian Valenza (43) 1:14:15.9
  10. Mark Anderson (44) 1:16:33.8

For more information, visit www.tampabayfrogman.com and www.navysealfoundation.org.

Copyright 2008 – 2021 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Steven Munatones