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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI synchronized swimmers do more together than perform to Swan Lake

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 401-874-5862

KINGSTOWN, R.I. -- June 1, 2004 -- The University of Rhode Island's synchronized swim team does more than just swim at the same time. Some members get their hair cut together too. Members of the club team decided earlier in the academic year to donate the required 10 inches of their hair to Locks of Love, a program that makes wigs for cancer patients for free.

Unfortunately, only two of the six swimmers had hair long enough to be donated by the April 30th hair appointment. The two who had their locks lopped were Kim Preuit, a junior, of Portsmouth, R.I., who had never cut her hair short, and Liz Fontaine, of Somerset, Mass., who graduated from URI in May. The University's synchronized swim squad is shown above. From left are Kim Preuit, Tracy Rappaport, Liz Fontaine, Michelle Kraczkowksi, and Tracy Jamula.

"Cutting my hair for Locks of Love was a great feeling," Fontaine said. "I was able to help children who are in need of a wig without really having to do anything. However, donating such a large amount of hair was a little upsetting, but thinking about how cutting it will help someone makes the pain a lot easier to handle."

Asked if she likes her shorter hair now, she responded, "It did take a little while to get use to, but I love it. I no longer spend so much time shampooing, conditioning, styling, and everything else that goes along with long hair."

Fontaine said charity work has been a natural activity for the team.
"Before coming to URI many of us volunteered, whether it be at our high schools or within our communities, and none of us felt that giving back should stop just because we were in college.

Plus, it is a great way for the team to bond while doing something positive and fun. It is also a way to get our team's name out there because no one really knows we exist. But we do not do all of this for the recognition. We do it more for the support we get back from the community we are trying to help."

Preuit had similar feelings about going for the haircut. "It took me forever to grow my hair really long, but a close relative of mine died of breast cancer in 2002," she said. "At first I wasn’t so sure, but I remembered her going through chemo and not having any hair. I may have lost 11 inches of hair, but there is someone out there who needs it more than I do."

She said her new style is easy to manage, but that she’ll let her hair grow out again and make another donation.

Both swimmers are grateful for the local community support, particularly Marianne’s Hair Co. in South Kingstown, which cut their hair at no cost, and a donation to the team from the Kiwanis Club.

Locks of Love wasn’t the first charitable cause in which the team became immersed.

The student-athletes worked with Kiwanis of Newport last summer to donate proceeds they earned to scholarships for children. They have also participated in the Swim for Asthma project in Providence, which exposes children suffering from asthma to swimming and other activities that may otherwise be hindered by the condition.

"We do a lot of charity work for a few reasons," Preuit said. "One it gives us a chance to bond as a team and to really get to know one another. Two, we have a great time doing it."

On April 25, the swimmers held their annual water show, which included routines performed by the children they coach, to defray the cost of competing next season. The event raised over $250.

The synchronized swim team is a club sport that was resuscitated four years ago and is charging full speed ahead into national and regional competitions.

"The first year was our learning year and the following years we qualified and swam at nationals," said Fontaine. URI's Tootell Aquatics Center hosted this spring's East Regional competition in which the team placed ninth out of 12 teams, and 24th out of 48 teams at the nationals in Michigan.