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Feature by Swimming World intern Celeste Cirillo-Penn
PISCATAWAY, New Jersey, January 15. A quick glance around the Sonny Werblin Recreation Center reveals a number of people clad in CeraVe Long Course Invitational T-shirts handing out water and other treats. Look a little further and one sees people holding plates piled high with food. This food is a product of the efforts of the Berkeley Aquatic Club's Hospitality Hosts, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide refreshments for coaches, officials and volunteers at the event.
When asked why they provide this service, Hospitality Chairperson Christine Pearson, replied jokingly "Caffeine - people are here all day, so they need a lot of caffeine and sugar."
Pearson, whose involvement with Hospitality Hosts began because of her four children being in the sport of swimming, has been running the program for eight years. Hospitality Hosts, however, is really a group effort. Berkeley community members bake cookies and breakfast foods for the event.
"We have a lot of people that bake and contribute," Pearson said. "There are always chocolate walnut cakes and peanut bars that the coaches are always asking for," Pearson added with a laugh.
The Hosts buy the remaining items such as fruit, salads and beverages at Costco, and order a variety of other foods, including bagels, sandwiches and pastas.
However, the Hospitality Hosts impact reaches beyond just providing food. Chuck Batchelor, head coach of the Bluefish Swim Club and Olympian Elizabeth Beisel, commends the outstanding atmosphere provided by the Hospitality Hosts at this event.
"This meet sets the bar. It's a level of hospitality in general that you don't see at normal club meets," Batchelor said. "We [Bluefish Swim Club] host meets and we try to model our meets after the hospitality and atmosphere here."
Pearson also admits that environment plays a huge role in the work of the Hospitality Hosts.
"It's an intense competition, especially a year like this with Olympic Trial cuts. It's nice that people can come back here where it's a positive, not stressful environment" Pearson said.
Pearson's dedication to the meet, however, stretches beyond the Hospitality Hosts. The event, which used to be sponsored by Burgdorff Realtors, is now sponsored by CeraVe.
"Every swimmer I know has dry skin, and my husband had worked for a company that had this product," Pearson said. "I asked my husband if he would consider sponsoring the event and it turned out to be a really good fit."
Pearson's husband happens to be J. Michael Pearson, the CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which created CeraVe. From this crucial stepping stone, CeraVe went on to become a sponsor of USA Swimming.
Pearson applauds the partnership because of its benefit for both the swimmers and the company.
"A lot of the swimmers love the product," Pearson said. "It has helped the sales of the product and the swimmers."
Courtesy of: Ally Barth