ORLANDO, Florida, March 15. DYNAMO Swim Club looks a little different at this weekend's 2013 NCSA Junior National Championships. Instead of their signature green, the entire team is racing in orange caps with “Orange for Erin: Never Give Up, Never Lose Hope” written on the side.
The reason for change isn't a happy one. Erin Pfleger, a longtime Dynamo swimmer, was diagnosed with leukemia in early January.
“We've grown up [swimming] with her,” said teammate Julia Dermer. “You never think it's going to happen to someone you know.”
The Dynamo squad took action shortly after hearing her diagnosis. Team parents created and sold the orange caps and t-shirts, the color of leukemia awareness, to raise money for Pfleger's treatment. The design has Erin's name inscribed inside the symbolic cause ribbon symbol.
“We started out selling the caps to raise money for the family, and now we're showing our support for [Pfleger] and her family,” Dermer explained about wearing the caps at the Junior National Championship meet. “It's a way for us to unite for our teammate.”
So far, Pfleger has responded well to the chemotherapy. Leukemia targets a person's blood or bone marrow, so the next step in Pfleger's six months of treatment includes finding out whether or not she is eligible for a bone marrow transplant.
Although she's too weak to swim during treatment, Pfleger frequently stops by the pool to visit her teammates at practice and meets.
“She came to Dynamo to see friends before practice every single day,” Dermer said. “And she came to some of the meets and high school state.”
Pfleger's Lakeside Viking teammates also swapped their purple and gold high school colors for orange t-shirts at the Georgia high school state meet in mid-February.
The orange tradition continued at the NCSA Championships this weekend. “It's a way for our team to come together for a really great cause,” said Dermer.
“We're using [the caps] for awareness right now, and then we're going to swap them with other teams at the end of the meet to raise awareness.”
“She actually doesn't know that we're going to switch them.”
[[Julia Dermer shows off one of the Orange for Erin team caps]]
Written by Shoshanna Rutemiller