Diving in for a cause: Amherst man’s swim around NYC benefits Valley adoption agency

  • Steve Spiegel with his wife, Lydia De Faveri Spiegel, at their home in Amherst. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Steve Spiegel at Puffer’s Pond, one of the many ponds he used to train for the 20 Bridge Swim, a 28.5-mile open water swim that takes its name from the 20 bridges connecting Manhattan, the other New York boroughs and the state of New Jersey. He completed the swim and raised over $7,000 for Full Circle Adoption, the organization he and his wife went through to adopt their two sons. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Steve Spiegel at Puffer’s Pond, one of the many ponds he used to train for the 20 Bridge Swim, a 28.5-mile open water swim that takes its name from the 20 bridges connecting Manhattan, the other New York boroughs and the state of New Jersey. He completed the swim and raised over $7,000 for Full Circle Adoption, the organization he and his wife went through to adopt their two sons. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Steve Spiegel holds the medal he received for completing the 20 Bridge Swim last month. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Steve Spiegel at Puffer’s Pond in Amherst, one of the many ponds he used to train for the 20 Bridge Swim. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Steve Spiegel swims by The Little Red Lighthouse along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Sept. 10 while participating in the 20 Bridge Swim, a 28.5-mile open water swim. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Steve Spiegel swims in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 10 while participating in the 20 Bridge Swim, a 28.5-mile open water swim that takes its name from the 20 bridges connecting Manhattan, the other New York boroughs and the state of New Jersey. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2022 8:33:50 PM

AMHERST — An Amherst resident combined his passion for swimming with his affection for an adoption agency in Northampton when recently making it to the finish line of a 28.5-mile journey in New York City’s rivers and the Long Island Sound.

“I thought it would be cool to swim around New York City,” says Steve Spiegel, who journeyed to Manhattan on Sept. 10 for the 20 Bridge Swim.

In completing the long-distance, open-water swimming feat in 8 hours, 11 minutes, Spiegel raised more than $7,000 for Full Circle Adoptions, an organization that helped his family become whole by expanding it to four members several years ago.

“It’s been an amazing way of having a family,” Spiegel said.

The day for the swim was warm and sunny as Spiegel got in the water for the event, which takes its name from the 20 bridges connecting Manhattan, the other New York boroughs and the state of New Jersey.

Starting at Mill Rock on the north shore of the Hudson River, he joined two other swimmers, one from Canada and another from Arizona. Then, he received help from a kayaker who led the way in navigating the currents and boats on the Hudson, East and Harlem rivers, and also passed food and drink to him, as needed.

The idea was to finish in enough time to take advantage of the currents and tides, though Spiegel faced added challenges from the choppy waters caused by Hurricane Earl. Getting seasick, Spiegel couldn’t take in food during the second half of his swim, though he felt no ill effects while swimming.

A support boat nearby carried his wife, a close swimmer friend whose family, like his, also grew through adoption, and an official observer, while other relatives and well-wishers watched from bridges.

Spiegel, 61, began training for the event when he learned last winter he’d been selected for what is considered a coveted spot in one leg of the Triple Crown of marathon open water swims. The other races that are part of this are the English Channel, between England and France, and the Catalina Channel, from Catalina Island to mainland California.

Already swimming with the University of Massachusetts Aquatics Masters, or UMAMA, Spiegel stepped up his training once he secured a spot in the prestigious swim, learning more from the UMass coaches who have taught collegiate athletes. Then, on his own, he did more swimming outdoors, as well.

Spiegel, who played professional basketball in Europe and met his wife, Lydia, in Switzerland, took up swimming after a back injury ended his hoops career.

“When I came back to the United States I was looking for something not as pounding as basketball, but also something that I could have fun with,” Spiegel said, observing that he had worked as a lifeguard in high school. Though born in Springfield, he grew up around New York City, swimming in the Hudson River when he was younger.

“Swimming you can do on your own schedule, work out when you want and the lakes around here are amazing,” said Spiegel, who worked professionally as a coordinator for the study abroad and global education programs at Keene State College.

Once selected, he decided to make his swim a fundraiser for Full Circle Adoptions. He said the nonprofit agency has shown how ethical it is in assisting birth mothers and the adoptive families.

“We continue to be thankful for the impact Full Circle Adoptions has had on our lives and their tireless and respectful work for birth parents and adoptive families,” Spiegel wrote in a GoFundMe appeal.

All money collected is going to the agency’s Stout Family Fund, which provides loans or grants to prospective adoptive families who need financial help with the costs of an adoption situation.

Efforts to contact Full Circle for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Spiegel said he appreciates all those who have helped him along the way with his swims, including those open swimmers who have inspired him.

“Everybody’s been so supportive,” Spiegel said. “Completing this has shown that this is a really cool community.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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