| Jul 27, 2006


Feature Article - July 27, 2006

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Feature Article - July 27, 2006

The Penguin that flew: 15 year old sets world record

by Meghan Balogh

“People with disabilities have abilities.” Jenna Lambert brought those words to life when she set her feet on firm ground after 32 hours in the water. Swimming across Lake Ontario would be a daunting proposal to most people but for Jenna, who has cerebral palsy, many would have said it would be impossible.

Jenna didn’t think so.

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At 6:44pm on Wednesday, July 19, the 15-year-old Harrowsmith resident fulfilled her dream and successfully set a new world record as the first person with a disability to swim across Lake Ontario . Several hundred friends, family, and supporters waited at Lake Ontario Park in Kingston to cheer her on and greet her when she took the final strokes to the shore.

Jenna began her swim on Tuesday at 10:27am from Baird Point , New York , accompanied by a flotilla carrying her close family, her coach Vicki Keith, and Swim Master John Munro. Over the next 32 hours, Jenna battled strong winds and waves, discouragement, and exhaustion.

“I knew from the very beginning that I couldn’t quit, and because I knew that, it kept me going on,” Jenna told her supporters in a press conference minutes after she completed her swim.

Jenna’s trainer Vicki Keith coaches the Kingston Y Penguins Aquatic Club, a swim team for kids with physical disabilities. The Penguins, of which Jenna is a member, consist of over 30 swimmers, some of whom have qualified at the provincial and national levels.

Through her Kid 4 Kids Marathon swim, Jenna hoped to raise money to build a new pool for the Penguins, and she was successful over $65,000 in donations poured in while she swam.

Many of Jenna’s family were waiting in the crowd at Lake Ontario Park , anxiously eyeing the tiny boats in the distance that marked Jenna’s progress.

“When I think about her out there, I get butterflies in my stomach,” said Jenna’s grandfather Bevan Lambert, as he waited to get into a speedboat and go out to see Jenna.

“She’s got the grit, she’s got the Lambert in her that she can do it,” said her Great Aunt as she was interviewed live on K-Rock 105.7, the radio station that covered Jenna’s progress as she swam. “And she’s still smiling. I’m so proud of her.”

Jenna completed the 32 kilometers of rough water using only her upper body. This got tricky when she stopped each hour to eat. “One of the most difficult parts was eating with one hand and treading water with the other,” Jenna said.

K-Rock was on-site selling bright, lime green “Jenna Lambert’s Kid 4 Kids Marathon” t-shirts. Prior to her swim, when asked what she’d like to see when she arrived at the end of her swim, Jenna stated, “My favourite colour is lime green, and I want to see everyone wearing a lime green t-shirt.”

More than three quarters of the people present were wearing the requested lime green.

Jenna’s moment of triumph, as she reached for the walker that awaited her in the shallows of Lake Ontario , is a historical moment. It speaks of her determination and perseverance, and the commitment of the people who helped her realize her dream. “This is why I’m doing this: for all the Penguins, for all my friends. Seeing all your support is what got me to shore.”

To donate to Kid 4 Kids, visit www.penguinscanfly.ca

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