Grace Daniels is only 11 years old but already has a philanthropic history.
Grace, her parents, Mike and Jennifer, and siblings, Noah, 8, and Lily, 6, have sponsored families at Christmas through the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse.
Grace raised funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and more recently donated her own money to Charlotte Rescue Mission.
“I always try to donate everywhere,” said the Beverly Crest resident and rising fifth-grader at Carmel Christian. “I feel like I’m blessed and I want to give money away to people who need help with their lives.”
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Grace swims in summer with the Beverly Crest Sharks and year-round with BadFish Aquatics. Her parents made an incentive arrangement with her: Whenever Grace swam her best time, she earned money.
Instead of frivolously spending, Grace saved her swim earnings and accumulated $120.
On the way home from a swim meet one day, Grace announced she wanted to donate that money to the homeless. After researching different websites, she chose the Charlotte Rescue Mission as the beneficiary.
I feel like I’m blessed and I want to give money away to people who need help with their lives.
Grace Daniels, founder of Laps for Love
“The Charlotte Rescue Mission takes broken souls and fixes them,” Grace said. “They give them nice homes, help them start a good life, rent apartments, do taxes, help pay for groceries, keep steady. Sooner or later (the individuals) have enough money to have a house and a family.
“I think that’s really cool how (Charlotte Rescue Mission does) that.”
Founded in 1938, Charlotte Rescue Mission annually serves more than 600 people struggling with addiction, poverty or hopelessness. The Christian-based residential recovery programs are intended to help those individuals become self-sufficient, productive citizens.
Charlotte Rescue Mission also serves more than 1,000 meals every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.
The Rev. Tony Marciano, executive director of Charlotte Rescue Mission, said he was so impressed by Grace’s generosity that he wanted to meet her. After a tour of the facility, the Daniels family sat down with Marciano and brainstormed other ways to help.
The charity called Laps for Love came out of that conversation.
“Laps for Love is a charity founded to help support the Charlotte Rescue Mission and the fight against homelessness,” according to the charity’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/swimlaps4love.
We are demonstrating love by helping those in need.
Jennifer Daniels, mother of Grace Daniels
Grace drew the initial rendering of the Laps for Love logo for her father. The logo bears a heart with “John 15:12” written in the center. The verse reads, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
Jennifer Daniels said, “This is Jesus’ greatest commandment, and the verse seemed fitting. We are demonstrating love by helping those in need.”
By choosing the phrase “Laps for Love” rather than “Laps for Homelessness,” Marciano said the Danielses are emphasizing love rather than the feelings of shame and unworthiness homeless people often face.
“I think (Laps for Love) will help communicate a message to them that they are loved and God loves them,” Marciano said.
Beverly Crest Sharks swim team manager Melissa Harding said she is thrilled Grace is holding the Laps for Love inaugural swim-a-thon at the Beverly Crest neighborhood pool.
“The beauty of this is that Grace decided to include the whole team,” Harding said. “It goes into what a neighborhood swim team is about: the joy of swimming and awareness of your community, the good, the hurt and the bad.”
On Aug. 20, the inaugural Laps for Love swim-a-thon will be held at the Beverly Crest swimming pool from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Swimmers will be from the Beverly Crest neighborhood, but the organization is looking for sponsors and volunteers. Each swimmer will have a half-hour to swim as many laps as possible.
Sponsors can donate per lap or donate a flat fee. Donations are tax deductible, and all proceeds go to Charlotte Rescue Mission.
Grace’s goals are to raise $2,000 for Charlotte Rescue Mission and make the swim-a-thon an annual event for both her teams.
Another swim-a-thon is planned for BadFish Aquatics on Oct. 3.
“We were thinking that it would start in Charlotte, but that (it) would get so big that people around the world would know about it,” Grace said.
Marissa Brooks is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.