Edward McClarty hadn’t been searching for a long-term volunteering gig when he was asked to bring smoothies to the Nashville Dolphins’ Swim-a-Thon.
“I didn’t give it much thought at the time, other than it was my way of giving back to my local community,” says McClarty, who had just become the owner of a Smoothie King. “Obviously, God had other plans.”
Shortly after, McClarty began prepping for an Iron Man Triathlon, which required a lot of swimming. He was training in the Gordon Jewish Community Center’s pool — the same pool where the Nashville Dolphins were holding a swim class — when he had an idea.
“I asked if I could get in the water and assist the athletes, and it just developed from there,” he says.
The Nashville Dolphins’ mission is to enable people with special needs to experience the physical and emotional benefits of swimming. The Dolphins provide free learn-to-swim classes and a free swim team to children and adults with special needs.
“Volunteers continue to come back because they are able to see the direct impact they are having with our organization,” says Program Director Megan Kelly. “They are working with the same swimmers each week so they are able to see their growth and progress and build friendships with our swimmers.”
Since that afternoon when he got in the pool with the Dolphins, McClarty — AKA Coach Ed — has spent his Tuesday nights leading swim practice. He decides the curriculum and exercises, gets swimmers ready for practice, and conducts the drills.
“We run the swim practice just like any other swim team,” Coach Ed explains. He says he enjoys seeing what each athlete is capable of and helping them work hard to maximize their potential.
For Coach Ed, who has been swimming with the Dolphins since 2004, serving with the organization has been a spiritual endeavor.
“I’m so blessed to be a part of this. I’m so happy that the parents and the athletes want me there to participate, and I’m grateful to offer whatever it is that I offer to them.”
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering with the Nashville Dolphins, express interest here.
Photos provided by Nashville Dolphins.