Swimmer returns to pool for heart healthy fundraiser | Announcements


Charlie Marciniak has Down syndrome. That means he has 47 chromosomes—one more than the norm on pair 21. Typically, people have 23 pairs of linear chromosomes for a total of 46 chromosomes, half from father and half from mother.

The National Down Syndrome Society estimates that about half of Down syndrome patients have a heart defect. Marciniak is one; he has a mitral valve prolapse.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “mitral valve prolapse is a type of heart valve disease that affects the valve between the left heart chambers (left atrium and left ventricle). The flaps (leaflets) of the mitral valve are floppy. They bulge backward (prolapse) like a parachute into the heart’s left upper chamber (atrium) as the heart squeezes (contracts).”

So Marciniak manages his lifestyle through diet and exercise to avoid valve repair or replacement surgery.

He wears a Fitbit watch to monitor his heart rate throughout the day.

He generally eats healthy foods. For breakfast, it’s mostly Cheerios with blueberries and a banana. Eggs are always cooked over easy and paired with pomegranate juice. For lunch, he eats a salad of mixed greens, cucumber, spring onion, mushroom, apple slices, tomatoes, grapes and blueberries. His heart doctor says he should limit himself to one burger per month—that’s a hard one to keep. But he will splurge with a pizza with extra cheese once per month.

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Marciniak also tries to keep active. He works part time as a loader at Lowe’s in Central Park, where there are lots of carts to return and customers looking for someone to help them load purchases into their cars. He bowls with the Knight of Columbus league.

But his mainstay for exercise is swimming—a sport he enjoys and excels in. He was the only long-distance swimmer from Virginia to compete in the Special Olympics 2014 USA games in Princeton, New Jersey, and he won silver and bronze medals. However, COVID rules set by Special Olympics prohibited indoor sports until recently.

With the resumption of indoor swimming in Area 11, which includes Fredericksburg and Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties, Marciniak decided to once again help himself stay fit and thank Special Olympics with a fundraiser by swimming laps for donations. For Marciniak’s Aquaman Challenge, he pledges to swim continuous laps for money donated according to the following schedule: $25–10 laps; $50–20 laps; $75–30 laps; $100–40 laps; and 10 additional laps for every $100 donated over $100.

Donations may be made by check or by credit card.

Make checks payable to “SOVA,” and write “Charlie Aquaman” on the memo line; mail to Special Olympics Virginia, 3212 Skipwith Road, Suite 100, Richmond, VA 23294.

Credit card donations may be made online at impact.specialolympicsva.org/aquaman.

Last year, Marciniak raised $4,426 and swam 1,550 laps, or 24.1 miles, in a Special Olympics Polar Plunge fundraiser, with 50% going to Area 11. This year, Marciniak hopes to raise $5,000 with about 94% going to his local area (6% goes to payment processing and website administration fees). But he needs your help to reach that goal. The fundraiser runs through May 1.

Marciniak is challenging himself to stay heart healthy through a vigorous swim program. He is challenging readers to monetarily support him and others like him who depend on Special Olympics to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle through competitive sports.


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