The passage of time has not dimmed the interest and enthusiasm the members of the Fallston Fins youth swim team have for swimming laps to raise money to honor the memory of 8-year-old Wilson Brady and his mother Katie.
Even though many of the participants in Wednesday's sixth annual Katie and Wil Brady Swim-A-Thon were not even born or were toddlers when Mrs. Brady and her son lost their lives in a car accident near Bel Air in November 2008, there was another enthusiastic turnout.
"To see kids that weren't on the team – and some weren't even born when this happened – and their families supporting the team and supporting the cause is just incredible," Stephanie D'Anna, one of two head coaches of the Fallston Fins, said during Wednesday's event, which took place at the Fins' home pool at The Fallston Club.
There are 276 members of the team between the ages of 4 and 18, and the coaches estimated about 175 swimmers participated in the swim-a-thon.
D'Anna, 20, and her fellow head coach, J.P. Hechter, 19, along with their assistant coaches, 17-year-old Summer Legambi and Will Horn, age 19, were part of the team as swimmers or volunteers helping younger children when Wilson Brady, known to friends and family as Wil, and his mother died.
Wil Brady was a member of the Fallston Fins.
"There's a lot of reasons to support this event, one, to support [Wil's] memory, but I think there's also a lot to be said about encouraging kids to be good team players," Hechter explained.
The coaches promote the event during the beginning of the summer swim season to the team, and several parents who were watching their children swim Wednesday said the children get excited about it.
The swimmers complete as many laps as they can in one hour to raise money to support Katie and Wil's Trail at the Marshy Point Nature Center in Baltimore County. Each age group takes a different hour during the morning event.
More than $20,000 has been raised through the previous five events, and the first phase of the trail has been completed.
"It's incredible to see how much they care and how much they pour their hearts into this," Summer, one of the assistant coaches, said.
She highlighted one 6-year-old boy, Thomas Perez, who completed 40 laps Wednesday. Hechter noted he "could not get down the pool without help" last summer.
The swimmers can raise money per lap or swim for a flat donation.
"It's a boy that's their age; it really hit home" Romy Dorsey of Baldwin said of her children, 8-year-old Isabella and 6-year-old Emmy.
Dorsey and her another mother, Cybil Rohner of Fallston, marveled at how their daughters completed lap after lap, even though the younger children recently learned how to swim.
Rohner watched her girls, 6-year-old Molly and 8-year-old Cameron, make their way up and down the lanes of the pool.
"Both my girls have really improved in swimming," she said of the experience on the Fins. "If you have the time to make it out in the mornings, it's great."
Delia Thomas, 11, of Fallston, and her next-door neighbor Megan Scannell, also 11, sent personal best records of 80 laps each Wednesday.
Megan completed her fourth swim-a-thon, and Delia completed her second. Both said they were "sore" as they chowed down on fruit and bagels, some of the food donated by area businesses for the swimmers.
"I just love to swim," Delia said.
Megan added: "It's for a good cause."
"I think it's a good cause," Delia's mother Kim Thomas said. "I think that they recognize a member of their previous team and keep it going."
Gwen Brady of Fallston, sister-in-law of Katie and aunt of Wil, is a co-organizer of the swim-a-thon, along with area residents Shari Kronsberg and Steph Carver.
"We always get nervous, the further away it gets [from the accident]," Brady said. "This year we're very happy with how many swimmers we had come out."
She said the team members typically ask about the event at the beginning of their season. She said they also "love their fish," poster board cutouts of fish that the swimmers can decorate and use to record their laps.
Her children, 15-year-old Jeffrey and 13-year-old Gabby, also took part in the swim-a-thon, and they were members of the Fins when they lost their cousin Wil.
"He was just a friendly person, and he never [said], 'I want to win,'" Gabby Brady recalled. "He was nice to people, cheered on the entire team; he was just a good team player."
Jeffrey Brady said the family was "kind of lost for a while, in a dark place" after the deaths of Wil and Katie. The swim-a-thon started in the summer of 2009 with the support of relatives and Fins coaches.
"Even when we get to the time that the kids in the Swim-A-Thon didn't know Wil personally, they're still going to know what this cause is for, and I think that's just a great thing," he said.