Too often, we define ourselves by too much of one thing- it might be our job, our partner, our role as a parent or even by what we like to do in our free time. When I allow myself the quiet space (usually while swimming laps in a pool as the sun is rising) to reflect on my whole self and my place on the planet- I can see all the threads that come together to make the fabric of me. That vision makes me feel pretty stoked. I am reminded that I am blessed to live a life that runs on passion and is fueled by the core values of kindness and giving back. Wow, it is a cool place to be.
I am Alissa Magrum. I am 42. I live in Austin, Texas. I grew up in Fairfax, Virginia and had a pretty great childhood. I had loving parents who taught me to be kind and generous, a big brother who tormented me a little but not too much, a well rounded education and exposure to so many different places and things that shaped my existence. This life taught what I wanted to do and be and also showed me what I didn’t want in my life. Seemingly endless energy and the need for constant movement was always present. Sports became a natural channel from an early age and I tried everything- soccer, basketball, softball, gymnastics, diving and even circus acrobatics and inner tube water polo. I loved soccer the most growing up and played through college. I was good enough but definitely not the team superstar.
After college, team sports were just too complicated to fit into my schedule and somehow I found cycling and eventually my absolute athletic love- -off road triathlon (XTERRA). Swimming in the open water, mountain biking and trail running was the perfect mix for my somewhat ADD tendencies. I found that I was good enough at all 3 sports to be competitive in racing or I could just get lost in the quiet of the water or be continuously challenged by the technical nature of trails. Perfect fit for my need to be moving. Sport alone is not enough. I needed to live my core value of giving back and experience my love of interacting with people, I discovered that I could be a charity athlete, acting as an ambassador for a cause or organization that I believed in. First, I rode my bike all over the country to raise awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS services after watching a friend living with AIDS. Then, after being sidelined from biking and running after hip surgery and watching my daughter Ella, lose a 4 year old classmate (Colin Holst) to a fatal drowning- I began swimming to help raise funds and awareness to prevent drowning. I realized how many ripples I could make by matching my passions and talents with a need in the community.
To make a long story short, I swam my way from being a volunteer athlete ambassador for the Austin, TX based non-profit, Colin’s Hope to ultimately become their full-time Executive Director in 2010. After Colin drowned in a public lifeguarded pool in June 2008, his parents started the organization as a way to prevent other families from losing a child to a preventable drowning. I now do this work every day. I find myself once again weaving my passions, talents and values into a fabric that allows me to do what I love to do physically, while also making even a small difference in this big world and sharing this with my family. What a gift. #luckyme
Yes, my family. I have an amazing wife, Keri and 3 super awesome daughters - Ella (11), Maddie (11) and Hanna (12). Our life is fantastic and complex puzzle of school, work, friends, and at least 5 different sports all going at the same time. We are a busy group of girls. I sometimes joke about wishing that I could wear a helmet cam on any given day to show how much epic @!#% I can accomplish. Crazy but I love it. Thankfully, Keri and the girls are all swimmers and naturally get involved with my Colin’s Hope endeavors. We swim in the Colin’s Hope Got2Swim Lake Austin 10K each September and they tolerate my ‘you must all wear life jackets at the lake-even if you are great swimmers” policy. I feel very blessed and supported by my family as I know that my “work” washes over into so many aspects of life.
Last month, dryrobe gave me a sweet opportunity to travel to South Padre Island (a 6 hour drive) to swim in the Open Water Planet Festival as an ambassador. An added bonus was that I could bring Ella with me for the adventure and the “1 mile” swim. I asked her if she was up for the road trip as her sisters were in a swim meet in Austin that weekend. She said yes, so we loaded up the Colin’s Hope vehicle, our swim caps and goggles, SaferSwimmer orange buoys and our dryrobes and headed the Texas coast. This trip was a dream for me- the beach, a WARMISH water open water swim, an opportunity to model good water safety AND a few quality hours with Ella. This would not be a race for me, but a chance to swim alongside Ella while meeting the Open Water Planet crew (including Olympians and fellow drowning prevention advocates, Rowdy Gaines and Lenny Krayzelburg) and checking out their swim- with a special eye on the safety aspects they put into place.
As a person who not only puts on an open water swim, runs a drowning prevention organization and is a swimmer who models good water safety behavior (wearing a life jacket and swimming with a SaferSwimmer buoy)- I was very impressed with the Open Water Planet swim (YAY- as this is not the case for many open water swim events). Their safety measures were comprehensive and this put me at ease as I let my 11 year jump into the open water with 100 other swimmers (mostly adults) to swim her mile.
We swam together and were met with some pretty strong currents. Our 1 mile swim turned into a 2 mile swim after we were continuously moved off course by the currents. It was even challenging for me to stay on track, so I was so proud of Ella that she just kept swimming until we finally got to the finish line. (Enter “Just Keep Swimming” from Finding Nemo). While it was 80 degrees that day, after being in the water for 90 minutes, I was so happy to find my Dryrobe waiting on the pier at the end of the swim. You see, at 104 pounds, I get really cold really fast in any water and I HATE being cold. My dryrobe has become a security blanket and actually makes it possible for me to keep swimming year round. You can ask the lifeguards at my pool- they see me (& my dryrobe and bunny slippers) show up at 6am to get in my swim.
I am proud to be a dryrobe ambassador. I have a strong ethical compass and love to work alongside people and businesses that are committed and dedicated to what they do and what they believe. dryrobe not only makes a stellar product but also have desire to give back. In a world where many companies choose to focus solely on making money and selling more product, I have found a company that wants to do more. THAT motivates me to also do more, give more and make more ripples in this world AND I can stay warmer in my dryrobe. My goal is to keep putting lots of kindness and give back into the world, as there can never be too much of that. I challenge you to do the same in your life and you will amazed at what comes back. Stay warm and safe. Thanks dryrobe for believing in me and my dreams.
Best Day Ever,
Alissadryrobe ambassador and Colin’s Hope Athlete Ambassador to Prevent Drowning