2012 CNN Hero: Wanda Butts, Nonprofit Swimming Lessons

I am an ambassador to the USA Swimming Foundation. At the Foundation, I work mostly with the USA National Team Alumni, all of the past swimming greats who respresented Team USA. It’s an impressive group of athletes, all very passionate about the sport. Many support the Foundation’s core mission, Saving Lives and Building Champions. The “saving lives” mission has been ongoing since 2004, when Rowdy Gaines headed the effort full-time. Debbie Hesse now leads the effort. She’s a true blue swimmer. She swam Division I in college at Texas A&M, then worked at the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) and the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA). As her career in the aquatic arena developed, she went on to be the Executive Director of Synchronized Swimming and then USA Diving. When the E.D. position at the USA Swimming Foundation opened up, she decided to return to the swimming family. Every so often I get alerts from Debbie about one of the USA Swimming Foundation “Make a Splash” Local Partners. I just got this one below about Wanda Butts, and it’s an exciting.  Wanda’s a shining light, a true leader in the water safety and drowning prevention community, and CNN has taken notice.  See Debbie’s alert below, and please support Wanda as a 2012 CNN Hero! 


In 2006, Wanda Butts received a phone call that no parent ever wants to get. Her 16-year old son, Josh, had drowned.

Like his mother, Josh had never learned the lifesaving skill of learning how to swim.  In fact, 70% of African-American, 60% of Latino/Hispanic and 40% of Caucasian children have low or no swimming ability, according to a study commissioned by the USA Swimming Foundation and conducted by the University of Memphis.Wanda Butts wants to change that.  In 2007, she founded The Josh Project.  Determined to turn tragedy to triumph, Wanda has partnered with a USA Swimming Foundation Make a Splash Local Partner to provide low-cost swimming lessons ($10 for four sessions) to children in Toledo, Ohio.  As a result of her tireless efforts, more than 1,000 children in her community have learned to swim.

Wanda has been chosen by CNN as a finalist for their 2012 Hero Awards, which recognize “everyday people changing the world.”  If chosen, The Josh Project will receive $250,000 to further the amazing work that The Josh Project is doing in their community.

Please vote now!  It’s free to vote, and will only take 2 minutes of your time.  You can vote up to 10 times daily, so vote early and vote often!  And don’t forget to share Wanda’s incredible story via your social networks.

Together, we can help provide $250,000 to The Josh Project—an organization that truly embodies the mission of the USA Swimming Foundation to save lives and build champions—in the pool and in life!

Thanks in advance for your support, and congratulations to Wanda on her nomination!

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Simon Frank

I voted for her. But all of them are heroes.

Never Swim Alone

She is a pretty incredible woman. She has inspired a national movement in water safety education. Her story is compelling and a great testament to memory and the love of her son.
Wanda, you and your son have saved many lives through your courageous message. THANKYOU

Vote for Wanda as so much more can be done to prevent DROWNING. I Did 🙂

Thanks for sharing our story with your readers! Please continue to vote for my mom 10 times a day everyday until November 29th!

About Gold Medal Mel Stewart

Gold Medal Mel Stewart

MEL STEWART Jr., aka Gold Medal Mel, won three Olympic medals at the 1992 Olympic Games. Mel's best event was the 200 butterfly. He is a former World, American, and NCAA Record holder in the 200 butterfly. As a writer/producer and sports columnist, Mel has contributed to Yahoo Sports, Universal Sports, …

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