Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - March 14, 2014

Giving back with a splash

Swimathon to raise funds for Children's Hospital Oakland

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

The Banholzer family has long dreamed of giving back to the hospital that treated daughter Sarah for her leukemia, a battle that began when she was 4 1/2 years old. The treatment at Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland included 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy and several surgical procedures.

"They provide such amazing care, and John and I feel so incredibly grateful that Sarah was able to receive this magnificent care during the tough times," mother Teri Banholzer said in an email.

"The staff at CHO always provided Sarah with the love and support that a young child needs in those hard times," she continued. "They also allowed us as parents to focus on what we needed to focus on, getting Sarah well again without leaving any doubt in our minds that we were in the right place, under the best care to make that happen."

Sarah is now 12 years old, and she came up with the idea of a fun day of swimming to raise funds for Children's Hospital.

The Banholzers liked the idea of a swimming fundraiser and holding it at Pleasanton Valley Swim Club.

"Swimming was the first 'normal' activity that Sarah participated in after recovering from leukemia," Teri Banholzer explained. "She started swimming on PVC swim team when she was 8 and still undergoing chemo, but it was her entry back into the normalcy of a kid."

The Be Strong and Give Back Happiness swimathon is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 27. Swimmers will reserve lanes for a half hour, then solicit pledges to contribute money based on how many laps they complete in the allotted time. A bake sale and drawing will raise additional funds.

The Banholzer swimathon takes its name from a project that Sarah's fifth-grade teacher, Sarah Landis, assigned her students at Valley View Elementary, having them write six-word essays to describe themselves. Sarah came up with "Be strong and give back happiness," and her family felt it also perfectly describes the fundraising event.

This is not the first time Sarah has raised money for Children's Hospital. In 2012, she made and sold about 200 Christmas ornaments, raising $1,100 to buy gifts for the kids being treated there during the holidays. Last holiday season, she again made the ornaments and this time received a big order from the company Athleta in Petaluma, which bought one for each of its employees, netting $2,500.

Title21 Software of Pleasanton is the main sponsor of the swimathon.

"For years, just personally, our family has supported Children's Hospital Oakland because they help kids and their families and always make it such a good experience," said Lynn Fischer, CEO of Title21. "We're blessed with three healthy children so we always want to help families going through those tougher times."

On the business side, Title21 integrates software solutions for laboratories and health care organizations to improve their efficiencies.

"Ultimately it helps improve quality and safety and outcomes in patient care," Fischer said. "That supports the great work being done at CHO. So we decided to support the swimathon."

Also, Sarah Banholzer has been friends with Fischer's daughter Allyson since kindergarten, and she will be participating in the event.

Children and adults are welcome to sign up for the swimathon, which the Banholzers hope will become an annual event.

"Swimming has provided a bridge for Sarah and continues to be a passion of hers," Teri Banholzer said. "So, what better way to give back to CHO but through doing something that Sarah loves to do."

For more information, go to bestrongandgivebackhappiness.weebly.com.

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