By Alesia Bradley
AUBURN, Alabama, USA, June 23. FOR Dave Denniston, it was a homecoming of sorts as he returned to Auburn for the Dave Denniston Swim Camp on Sunday, June 19.
"It's been incredible coming back because Auburn's one of those places you always miss," Denniston said. "It becomes a second home or even now a first home. It's like coming back home."
The camp was renamed for Denniston after a sledding accident in February left him paralyzed from the waist down. The money raised through the camp will go toward his medical bills and efforts to help him regain the use of his legs.
"The fact that they named the camp after me and the proceeds are going to help me get back walking again is just an honor," Denniston said. "I am very humbled by David Marsh and the rest of the swimmers and coaches and everybody volunteering their time to do this for me. It has been an incredible experience."
At the camp, Denniston rolls by the campers, speaking to each of them as they call his name, taking pictures and giving high fives.
Throughout the week, he's helped teach the camp as well as provide motivation and encouragement to the campers. On Tuesday, he taught the
breaststroke, the stroke that made him an international standout. But what he's enjoyed most is speaking to the campers.
"Something I love doing is working with kids and being in the water with kids," he said. "I can't get in the water with them right now because of my therapy, but I can communicate with them, talk to them, teach them, and make them laugh. That's what I have the most fun doing."
One of his goals throughout the week has been to keep the kids laughing. He hasn't had much trouble with that so far.
"I told them on the first day of camp that I wanted to make sure everybody laughed at least once a day, and I think they've done that so far," he said. "So, it's been successful from my end."
Auburn swimming coach David Marsh said there were several reasons why there was a decision to rename the camp in Denniston's honor and to donate the money raised to his rehabilitation.
"My family, the Auburn swimming family and I love Dave Denniston and what he represents," Marsh said. "We are highly concerned about him getting the best help he can get. We think that through this kind of camp and other people doing these kind of projects with him and for him, he can get the best help he needs. I said when he was initially hurt that our goal would be to try to raise the amount that's equal to his record (200-yard breaststroke) time, $153,000. This will help; this will not get us all there but I hope that Auburn people, as they have already, will feel challenged to help."
Marsh said Denniston has shown the campers what it means to have a positive attitude.
"He's been a constant source of encouragement, and he's their minute-by-minute reminder of not only to appreciate what we have but also to keep striving for your goals because that's what he's having to do," he said.