November 23, 2010
The following article was copied from www.swimnetwork.com which is a great place to read about elite level swimmers and competition. Peter Vanderkaay is one of CW's elite team members and has competed in the past 2 Olympic Games. He is a great guy and has given a lot back to his community and to CW.
by: Mike Watkins
Peter Vanderkaay has strong ties to Ann Arbor, Michigan.
ConocoPhillips has been a sponsor of USA Swimming since 1973. Today, ConocoPhillips focuses on “Passing on what matters to the ones who matter most,” and in that spirit Swimnetwork is highlighting swimmers of all levels who have chosen to give back to the sport of swimming or to their community.
Peter Vanderkaay 's affinity for volunteering with and supporting the University of Michigan's Mott Children's Hospital developed years ago while still a student athlete.
Ever since, it's been an ongoing passion to give back every chance he gets.
"The University has a program called 'From the Heart' in which athletes go to Mott to visit the patients," said Vanderkaay, a 2006 Michigan graduate and the 2006 Big Ten Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year. "When I was in school, I tried to get there as much as possible, but with heavy training and tough schedules, I couldn't attend as much as I would have liked. I try to go every week now."
During his visits, Vanderkaay, who won six NCAA and 14 Big Ten titles for Michigan, said he most enjoys visiting the sick kids on the floors. He also works with the hospital's development office to raise awareness about (and funds for) the excellent, cutting-edge care the hospital provides.
And when he won the $20,000 grand prize at the Charlotte Grand Prix earlier this year as the points leader, he donated a portion of it to the Charles Woodson Clinical Research Fund.
"Many athletes at UM have been involved with Mott, and (Heisman Trophy winner and Green Bay Packer) Charles Woodson has been very inspiring, donating $2 million of his own money to the hospital and fund," Vanderkaay said. "Hopefully down the road, I'll be able to donate more money as well."
While monetary gifts help keep Mott moving forward in its research and care - it ranked among the best pediatric hospitals in the nation by the U.S. News Media Group in 2009 - Vanderkaay said he gets his greatest joy from interacting with a sick child or concerned parents.
"I enjoy working with this charity because I've been able to see how it is on a personal level," said Vanderkaay, a two-time Olympian and gold medalist. "The care at Mott is top-notch, and after visiting hundreds of sick kids over the years, it's very rewarding to help ease their pain. Some of those kids are so brave to be able to take on major health issues at such young ages. It's very inspiring."
While his heart is definitely with Mott, Vanderkaay also finds time to support other charitable causes and organizations as much as he can. He has worked to raise awareness about asthma and he has also served as the spokesman for the Michigan Dental Association-sponsored Children's Dental Health Month. He also works with several environmental groups, particularly those involved with water sustainability like Blue Planet Run.
The second of four brothers (all swimmers), Vanderkaay says his giving nature links back to ideals and values passed on by his parents, Robin and Mark.
"(My parents) definitely instilled in my brothers and me at a
young age the importance of giving back," Vanderkaay said. "They
always led by example, showing us that volunteerism is extremely
important in our society. I think that no matter how much you
accomplish, if you can afford to give back, you should. For me,
giving back has enriched my own life in wonderful ways, and I've a
lot of amazing people, too. It's a nice feeling to be able to help
As for his work with Mott, Vanderkaay hopes to continue to be a part of their mission for many years to come.
“I hope to work with Mott for a long time to come,” Vanderkaay said. “Right now, they are less than a year away from opening a brand new Mott Children’s Hospital, so it’s a very exciting time. I’m honored to be a part of it.”