Diving in to make an impact

October 05, 2011|By Carol Cormaci

One summer day more than 20 years ago our doorbell rang. I answered it to find a boy who appeared to be about 8 years old. He had a big grin on his face and expressive eyes.

“Hi,” he said. “Can I go swimming in your pool?”

Word had apparently spread that I love the sound of kids splashing around. Our daughter had recently turned 3 and a couple of adorable elementary-age girls from neighboring homes had sort of adopted her—and our ’50s vintage diving board.

Standing with him at the door, I thought it wise to take care of introductions. He told me his name was Russell and that he and his family had just moved in down the street. I asked him to let his mother know that I’d like to meet her and get the maternal OK for his plan before he dived in. He agreed and headed home.


He returned quickly, mother and little sisters in tow. I learned that they were the Bernsteins and that Russell had full approval to go swimming, if it was OK with me.

I bonded with Russell’s mom, Anna Marie. One of his sisters, Whitney, was the same age as our daughter and so the two of them became friends. Our pool was used often and enthusiastically by the neighborhood kids.

Russell was great fun to watch as he grew up. What a neat kid. Smart as a whip and, at La Cañada High and later at Berkeley, a standout in water polo. He was never far from a pool.

After her kids finished high school, Anna Marie moved to New Mexico. Her four offspring all embarked on their adult lives far away from La Cañada. We’re not in touch regularly, but every so often I hear of their endeavors, usually through our daughter.

Last week I had an email from Russell. He’s living in New Jersey, across the river from the Big Apple, and has started a foundation that he hopes will one day be world-changing. Although he’s still setting up the framework, his Global Team Players looks to match athletes with volunteer opportunities and also raise funds earmarked for specific goals. One in particular is of keen interest to Russell: to improve the odds of children in underdeveloped nations making it all the way through secondary grades and even into college. He’s trying to drum up some support.

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