Jake Rusnak challenged himself to the longest swim of his life in October—10K (6.2 miles), or 438 laps around the pool. Thankfully, the Baltimore teen didn’t have to count all the laps—his all-in-one training partner, coach and former lifeguard dad, Andrew, took on that task.
Aside from the physical challenge, Jake is motivated by a cause near and dear to his heart—actually, his kidney. His swim raised more than $5,000 for the National Kidney Foundation.
“I have one kidney,” says Jake. “But helping those with worse problems than me—people with kidney issues that are debilitating” is his driving force.
Pooling His Talents
“I’ve been swimming pretty much my entire life since I was 1,” Jake says. Born with a rare kidney disease that required one of his kidneys to be removed as a toddler, he wasn’t able to play contact sports. However, swimming was a safe option.
“We started going (to the pool) religiously, two to three times a week, for years,” says Andrew. As Jake grew, so did his skills.
Having one kidney “doesn’t really impact daily life, except I have to drink more water,” Jake explains.
He started dipping his toes into the waters of charitable giving when he was 8. That’s when he swam 100 laps to raise money for the National Kidney Foundation, followed by a 5-mile charity swim when he was 10 and this past October’s 10K. Combined, all three raised more than $10,000 in donations.
He credits his Archbishop Curley High School teachers and administrators with inspiring him to help others. And he’s quick to express gratitude to his donors and parents.
“When he was born (with his kidney condition), we didn’t want him to think he had any kind of limitations,” says Andrew. Still, even Andrew couldn’t have predicted his son’s swimming success.
“We are very proud of him—his heart is really in it,” says mom Lori. “When I watch him swim, I’m in awe—it’s so natural for him.”
Advice from the Expert
What Jake Rusnak has to say about volunteering
“Choose something that you’re good at doing, or something that matters to you, so you have the energy to do what you’re doing,” says Jake Rusnak.
Why Jake Swims
Fast Facts About Kidney Disease
Kidney disease causes more deaths than breast cancer or prostate cancer. About 37 million Americans (15% of adults) are affected by kidney disease. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two main causes of kidney disease.
For More Info
Art with a Heart, artwithaheart.net
National Kidney Foundation, kidney.org