Woodbridge resident and retired Navy rescue swimmer Bobby Powell swam more than 220 miles over a 15-day period to raise awareness about suicide.
We met with Powell at Tim’s Rivershore in Dumfries, one of the sites where he trains, to talk about his swim.
Powell swam from the Pentagon building down to the U.S.S. Wisconsin in Norfolk, with volunteers in boats along the route, providing assistance and carrying equipment.
“I swam into one crab that hit me right on top of the head. I was pretty accustomed to all sorts of debris, as far as grass and stuff out there, so at first I didn’t think much of it. Until I felt it crawling – that got my attention,” said Powell.
While Powell swam the 220 miles, he met with individuals that had been impacted by the suicides of people in their lives.
“Every day, as I went down the river, at the end of each day or at the beginning of some days people would come up to me, thanking me for bringing more awareness. Sometimes people were just overcome with emotions. It was really moving for me,” said Powell.
According to Powell, even on his own 15-day journey, three people he’s connected to in some way committed suicide, highlighting the need for his swim.
“My swim here definitely helped touch a lot of people that have been touched by suicide. Hopefully the awareness that I helped to raise along the way will not only let people know that people still care about this – it’s an issue we want to fight and try to correct – but also maybe some of those other people out there who weren’t quite so aware of how prevalent it is in our communities – maybe now they are,” said Powell.
He warned that people should always be on the lookout for warning signs in their friends and family, to be there and provide assistance in their times of need.
“You always want to be looking out for your friends because you never can tell when you might be the one person that helps to save their life,” said Powell.
On July 8 the Fitch Foundation, a non-profit that supports the veteran community, will be hosting their first swimming event with Powell to raise awareness for PTSD and suicide.
“The Fitch Foundation is doing their level best to help [veterans] live a more healthier lifestyle, get off the couch, improve nutrition, get back into athletics – I don’t care if you’re 80-something years old – there’s still things you can do that will give you a more productive and healthier life,” said Powell.
The swim will be happening at Tim’s Rivershore, beginning at 8 a.m., and swimmers will be do either a two-mile or one-mile stint.
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