Donating to a charity is one thing, but inspiring donations is another. Robert McGlashan is the vice President of GLOW- Great Lakes Open Water, and a Toronto Lawyer who is raising money for 3 different charities this summer.
This July and August Robert is challenging himself to extreme swims across Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Louise which has never been done before. Roberts plan is to raise $300,000 as he is swimming 20km across Lake Erie for Shelter Movers, 42km across Lake Ontario for WWF, and 2km across Lake Lousie for Mountain Gorillas Conservatory.
Robert has always held swimming close to his heart and the best way to raise money for the charities he cares most about is through what he loves to do most. As an active member of the board for the Great Lakes, a member of GLOW and a lawyer, Robert does his part in inspiring change and raises money for charities that make the most impact.
What motivated you to take on such a challenge as swimming across great lakes, instead of something much simpler?
I’ve always loved the sport and the challenge of open water swimming. So for Swim for Change, I wanted to pick swims that were recognized as challenging or had not been previously attempted, like my Lake Louise swim.
How did you choose each charity and what made you want to swim for 3 different charities in 3 different places?
I chose three Canadian charities that in light of COVID I felt needed extra support right now:
WWF Canada: WWF Canada works towards the preservation and protection of wildlife including the great lakes and Canadian beaches. The work they do impacts not only the animals and their habitats, but the people who wish to use these resources.
WWF Canada’s current focus is on Canadian waters, including shoreline clean-ups and a campaign focused on banning ships from dumping waste in marine protected areas. This is very close to my heart because of all the time I spend in the water, specifically in the great lakes.
Mountain Gorilla Conservation Society: The Mountain Gorilla Conservation Society is a volunteer-based organization dedicated to raising funds for resources necessary to help protect the world’s wild gorillas. They work to preserve habitats as well as provide greater resources such as veterinarians.
Personally, I’ve always been an animal lover so I wanted to make sure that one of my swims was dedicated to animals, and gorillas happen to be my favourite!
Shelter Movers: The Shelter Movers work to ensure women in abusive relationships can move from a violent environment to a safe one. Part of their work is ensuring that resources such as storage and movers are available when in need. Their work makes an immediate and important impact on the people they help.
And three different charities in three different places because I like a challenge!
Being a lawyer seems like a busy job, how do you have time to train every day with hours of swimming sessions?
The timing can sometimes be tricky, especially during our busier times at the firm. I try to train before work since my days can become long and scheduling in the evening is hard.
I train a minimum of five days a week and on my training days, I wake up at 5 a.m., head to local lakes with my trainer and lifeguard and I usually dedicate 3 hours to training. Generally, I prefer to train in lakes to get my body adjusted to the more extreme conditions like the cold temperature and waves.
What made you decide to tackle such challenges as the great lakes including Lake Louise?
It was a mix between my personal open water swimming goals and my goals for the charity event. I wanted to challenge myself to complete 3 difficult swims that have different difficulty factors such as distance, temperature and altitude in the same year. Also attempting a swim across Lake Louise, when no one else has, is something that has been on my bucket list for quite some time.
I also knew in order to succeed in fundraising, it was important to attempt swims that would earn a lot of interest from the public. My most important goal is to raise enough money to help these organizations achieve the significant impacts they’re striving for.
What kind of support system is involved when swimming to such lengths?
Throughout my training for these challenging swims, I have been lucky enough to have the advice of a coach, a dietitian as well as the support of my friends. All of these individuals have helped me stay motivated and committed to my goals.
Training can be physically stressful on my body and the constant support helps me push when I’m facing the many challenges that come with open water swimming.
On the day of the swim, safety precautions have also been put into place, like assigning lifeguards to follow me in case I need assistance.
What can you say is the most difficult and the most rewarding part of Swim For Change?
Personally, the most difficult part has been the physical demand on my body. Training for the freezing temperatures and required endurance takes a lot of dedication and mental focus. When my schedule at work gets chaotic, remaining committed to the intense training is not always easy but of course, I know I will be proud of myself in the end.
The most rewarding part is the chance to take on a challenge that will be a great adventure, and although the outcome is uncertain I’m sure it will challenge me both mentally and physically.
I’m also excited to see the impact of the swims. Each swim has a great message for the public about how there has to be a change in how we use resources. I hope it will spread more awareness about these amazing organizations that do so much to help those in need.