Morning Splash by David Rieder.
Cammile Adams was born and raised in Houston. She spent the first 18 years of her life in the country’s fourth-most populous city before attending college at Texas A&M, less than 100 miles northwest. The only time she ever really moved away was when she spent two years training with a group of professionals in Charlotte, N.C.
After she stopped swimming following her second Olympics in 2016, she moved back to Houston. And on Aug. 24, she was buckled down at her home not far from downtown when Hurricane Harvey hit.
The Category 4 storm caused floods that ravaged the city, causing upwards of $50 billion in damages. Adams’ house was unscathed, but other homes as close as one mile away were washed out by an overflowing bayou.
In the weeks since, the city has been pushing towards a return to normal, but it hasn’t been a quick road. Adams was scheduled to start her job teaching sixth grade reading at Hamilton Middle School Aug. 28, but the start of the year had to be pushed back two weeks due to the storm.
Across the city, thousands of people lost everything—and that included swimmers. So Adams decided to do something about it.
“Obviously I wanted to do something to give back to all these families, and being in the swimming world, I thought, ‘How many swimmers have been displaced?’” Adams said.
“There’s a lot.”
Adams realized that what swimmers needed the most was, quite simply, to be able to swim, but so many no longer had the the most basic swimming equipment. So she organized a donation drive.
“A lot of companies—vendors or dealers or whatever—store warehouses and warehouses of stuff, and it just sits there,” she said. “These kids don’t need the newest of the new or the hip new thing—they just need to be able to do something that they love and take their mind off the tragic event that their family is wrapped up in.”
She pointed out that she will accept any sort of swimming-related gear, in any size or color, male or female. If any equipment goes unused, Adams has pledged to send any unused equipment that she receives to a team or an LSC in Florida, where Hurricane Irma has made landfall this weekend, for the swimmers there that, inevitably, will have lost everything.
In addition to her equipment drive, Adams will participate in two charity events to raise funds for swimming families in the area.
On September 24, she and fellow U.S. Olympian Allison Schmitt will host an event called “Race an Olympian” at Westside High School. The event is organized by Fitter and Faster, but it is not a clinic.
According to the registration page for the event, “100 percent of the proceeds will be donated to Gulf Swimming Local Swim Committee-area swim families identified by the LSC’s team coaches. Donations will be distributed through Energy Core Swimming, a 501c3 swim team organization in Houston.”
On top of the $50 registration fee, anyone can add additional donations, and Adams has also set up an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) where anyone can email her to donate (but not to sign up for the event).
Why is Schmitt, who has no connection to Houston, coming? Because Adams felt that Schmitt could be an uplifting presence at a time when people in Houston needed just that.
“I thought that it would be super fun to bring in another Olympian,” Adams said. “I thought Allison would be the perfect person. She embodies everything that you would want to be around at a time like this . She’s so positive and uplifting, and her smile is contagious. Everybody can use some Allison Schmitt in their lives, but especially these swimmers and their families.”
One week after the “Race an Olympian” event, Adams will participate in another fundraising opportunity within the Gulf Swimming LSC’s “Swimposium” event.
Among Houston’s swimming community, Adams has some notoriety as an Olympian, and over this month, amid the biggest tragedy to hit the city in recent memory, Adams has found a way to put that fame to good use.
And she’s deeply grateful to have the opportunity to provide help and to be a source of inspiration during what has been such a difficult time for so many people.
“It means a lot,” she said. “I really felt like we needed to do something in the swimming world, and this was kind of the best avenue to do so. I wanted something that was going to directly affect the swimmers that have been displaced, and I felt like this was going to be the most direct way to help out those swimmers.”
Of course, Adams has not been the only Houston-area professional athlete going out of the way to make a huge difference for others. Most notable has been Houston Texas star defender JJ Watt, who tweeted out his goal to raise $200,000 on Aug. 27.
That initial goal was met in less than two hours, so Watt kept upping his aims. As of the last update, on Sept. 9, the total amount raised was upwards of $30 million.
Sure, Adams’ efforts likely won’t make that kind of monetary impact—most Olympic swimmers don’t have quite the name-brand recognition of NFL stars—but for those in Houston’s swimming community who see her, a home-grown Olympian, as a hero, she could make all the difference in the world.