When a Program Becomes a Family: Thoughts on the Life of Michael Heaney

by SwimSwam 2

November 15th, 2013 Heart of a Champion, Lifestyle

The below piece was submitted by Lauren O’Donnell, a current assistant coach at Rutgers, and  a graduate of TCNJ, that launched the Meters for Mike campaign to raise money for Michael Heaney, who was hit by a car and left with severe physical injuries in 2009.

Michael passed away this past weekend, and was laid to rest in Cherry Hill, New Jersey on Wednesday.

To really feel the real effect of this piece, click here for the hand-written version. The full text is below.


One of Lauren O’Donnell’s old TCNJ t-shirts encompasses the sense of family within the program amid two tragic losses of teammates.

On Wednesday, November 13th, over a hundred of Michael Heaney’s family, friends, “brothers,” and “sisters,” gathered to pay their last respects to the most boisterous, caring, and full of life teammate many of us have ever known (even if he technically never was your teammate.)  On that cold and blustery day it was hard for me not to draw a parallel to the week of January 6th, 2002, when our same family said goodbye to TCNJ freshman, Caleb Bohman, of Vernon, NJ.  Whether you swam with Caleb, Michael, or neither, as a member of the TCNJ swimming and diving family, you have felt the love and the loss of both young men.  Both large young men in physical stature, had an even larger heart and an incredible zest for life.  You could not come into contact with either Caleb or Michael and not be affected by their selflessness, their “whatever it takes” attitude, their desire to succeed, their willingness to work hard, and the ease in which they always gave 100%.

Caleb Bohman, another TCNJ swimmer who tragically passed away recently.

Caleb Bohman, another TCNJ swimmer who tragically passed away recently.

As we came together on Wednesday and shared heartfelt and lighthearted memories of Michael I realized he had brought us all together once again – those who swam before him, those who swam with him, and those who swam after him.  A band of brothers and sisters spanning over 15 years of competition at The College of New Jersey, under the leadership of Brian Bishop and Jennifer Harnett, once again, showed how a strong and unbreakable swimming program becomes a family through triumph and tragedy.

“The candle that burns twice as bright, burns for half as long.”



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Swim fan
10 years ago

Sorry for your loss

Doug Bohman
Reply to  Swim fan
7 years ago

Lauren, just read your article on the passing of Michael Heaney. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at home and the TCNJ family as well. Thank you for your kind words about him and about our son Caleb who passed away at TCNJ 15 years ago today. Linda and I wish peace and blessing on all those affected by the death of these two special young men.

Doug & Linda Bohman