Penguins Take Flight in Another Successful Swimathon!

On July 10th, the Mighty Penguins of the Little Falls Swim Team, completed their 3rd  Swim-a-thon in support of Hydrocephalus!  Once again, the Penguin’s incredible effort was a smashing success; they raised over $8,000 for Hydrocephalus research funding!

While dedicating the Swim-a-thon to patients of Hydrocephalus everywhere, the team put a personal touch on the event by having each of the 90 teammates swim in honor of a particular individual who lives with, or has passed away from, the condition.   After learning about their patients’ stories, the swimmers proudly adorned themselves with a wrist band bearing their honoree’s name and were thrilled to be able to support those challenged with hydrocephalus, by challenging themselves in the water.  Parent Organizer, Joey Lampl, agreed that pairing each swimmer with a real person with hydrocephalus was quite meaningful for the kids: “There was tremendous interest in the stories. The kids showed remarkable maturity in approaching the content (which often explained just how difficult living with hydrocephalus can be), and really gave it their all in the water!  I think the swimmers felt a real bond with the person represented by the name on their bracelet”.  

Then it was off to the races!

We “couldn’t be prouder” of the kind hearts and incredible tenacity demonstrated by the Little Falls Team.  All of us at Team Hydro could not be more thrilled, or more honored to be TEAMMATES with the Penguins of Little Falls in our fight against hydrocephalus!  

Thank you Penguins!!!!

Little Falls Poised for Swim

The swim-a-thon took place in two sessions.  Above, the morning session smiles before diving in for the Swim!  The Penguins’ effort for Hydrocephalus was also featured in a newspaper article in the Bethesda, Maryland Gazette! Check it out here:

LF Newspaper

Go Team Hydro, and Go Little Falls!  Hoo Haa!!  

Go Team Hydro Penguins!

Go Team Hydro Penguins!

Pysch Board???????????????????????????????


Why we do What we do….

It is easy to get caught up in our lives.  Whether we are overwhelmed by the acute stress of tragedies, worn down by the relentlessness of chronic challenges, or simply distracted by the mundane tasks of day to day living, it happens to us all.  We also occasionally have those moments of clarity — where everything makes sense, where our priorities are clear.

I just came across the last two messages I exchanged with my sister, Kate, not TOO long before she was hospitalized for what proved to be the last time.  This is a little more personal than I typically like to be, but I wanted to share this as a reminder of why we do what we do.  I miss my sister every day.  For me, this is a good reminder to live my life in a way to make her smile whenever she looks down on me.

Hydrocephalus is a condition affecting REAL people in REAL ways.  People feel alone.  Misunderstood.  Hopeless.  Helpless.  It doesn’t need to be that way.  It shouldn’t be that way.  None of us are ever REALLY alone, even if we REALLY feel alone.  Someone somewhere understands what we’re going through.  As long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other, there is always hope, and we’re never helpless.


To any out there feeling worn out or run down, know you’re loved.  Things will get better, even if we don’t know how or when.  They will.   Treat those around you with love and respect.  Build them up.  Never miss a chance to help or uplift.  Live your life such that YOU will be proud of the way YOU’VE lived — You never know when an interaction will be the last — or who may be smiling down on you.

~Peter Finlayson

Support the Cause:


Using their Strength to Serve: Penguins to Swim Again for Hydrocephalus Research!!

Team Hydro is proud to announce that The Mighty Penguins of Little Falls Swim Team will once again take to the water to raise funds and awareness for Hydrocephalus Research!  On July 10th, for the 3rd year in a row, this amazing summer recreational Swim Team from Bethesda, Maryland will put their personal racing goals aside, and instead hold a Swim-a-thon for Hydrocephalus Research!


The Penguin swim team, known throughout their Montgomery County Swim League for having exceptional team spirit and comraderie, is comprised of about 90 swimmers ranging in age from 5-18.  Swimmers from the youngest age group on up will obtain sponsors and then swim as many laps as they can to gain donations for the Team Hydro Cause.  Every penny raised will go directly to Hydrocephalus Research!!

Little Falls first became involved with Team Hydro in 2012 after learning that Kate Finlayson, a former swimmer and Penguin teammate, had died from hydrocephalus after years of struggling to treat this difficult and incurable condition.  Learning how Kate had endured more than 100 brain surgeries in a effort to stay alive, the Team decided to do what they could to stop such suffering.  Within a matter of weeks, thanks to the dedication and leadership of parent coordinator Nancy LaVigne (who has two young sons on the team), the Little Falls / Team Hydro Swim-a-thon for Hydrocephalus was born! In just two short summers, the Team has already raised over $10,000 for Hydrocephalus Research!!

Passionate about their effort to help find a cure for Hydrocephalus, the Team has once again set a goal of raising $5000 during the 2014 Swim-a-thon!  Parent Swim-a-thon Coordinator Joey Lampl, has been working hard for weeks to ensure the swimmers are ready for the Big Day.  In order to make the event as meaningful as possible for all involved, the penguins will have opportunities to learn about hydrocephalus so that they can better understand the condition they are working so hard to support.  The kids will make cards to send to patients in hospitals across the country, will play games which teach hydrocephalus facts, and will listen to stories of people who are living with the condition.


The swimmers will also be paired, as special “Teammates”, with a person who is currently living with hydrocephalus, or who has passed from the condition.  Each penguin swimmer will receive a hospital band with a real patient’s name, along with a copy of their personal hydrocephalus story. The hospital bands will be worn for a week leading up to and through the swim, and will allow each swimmer to dedicate their effort in honor of a real person. We hope this pairing will allow the swimmers to feel more personally connected to the 1.2 million very real individuals in this country who are desperately hoping that some day, through research and effort, a CURE for hydrocephalus will be found.


The hospital bands will also serve as conversation starters for the kids with friends, family, and supporters–as people ask why the swimmer is wearing a hospital band, the penguins will be given opportunities to explain their participation in the Little Falls Team Hydro Swim-a-thon, and share with others the desperate need for more research on this difficult neurological condition to occur!


Team Hydro is so happy and honored to welcome the Penguins to its Roster once again, in 2014!!  We are certain that every Team Hydro Swimmer, donor, and on-land supporter, past and present, joins us in saluting these wonderful young athletes!!! We will be rooting for you from all over the USA as you Swim for a Cure, and then complete your own competitive season! Go Penguins!

YOU can donate to the Little Falls / Team Hydro Swim-a-thon here: 





Genentech Honors Team Hydro



Genentech, Inc. a biotechnology corporation headquartered in the Silicon Valley of California, recently announced it will be contributing $3,000 to the Team Hydro effort to fund hydrocephalus research!!   Committed to supporting the community in which it resides, each year Genentech chooses several service organizations in which employees are engaged, and then makes a donation on the employee’s behalf.  Team Hydro could not be more excited to have been selected to receive such a donation in 2014!  The Company also sent an article to its over 12,000 Genentech employees highlighting Team Hydro and our efforts to raise awareness and funds for hydrocephalus research!

Team Hydro sends a big THANK YOU to Genentech for their generous support!

Thanks too, to every Team Hydro swimmer, donor, and on-land supporter, for helping us continue to raise awareness, and make a difference for those living with hydrocephalus!

Read the Genentech article below:


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2014 Alcatraz Swim Photo Highlights!

2014 was another WONDERFUL year for the Alcatraz swim! Read on to enjoy some great moments from the day!  If you have PHOTOS from the event, POST THEM HERE! You can also check out more videos and photos on our facebook page.  We hope to see YOUR smiling face in Boston in September, or in SF in 2015!! Visit our Team Hydro Event Pages and Register now!


Every Team Hydro Swimmer successfully completed the 2014 Escape from the Rock!  ALL involved had a great time as we developed camaraderie, recruited some terrific new teammates, and raised LOTS of Awareness (and $$) for our Cause!!  More details, photos, and videos to come, but rest assured, we had another wonderful Alcatraz swim!  We enjoyed a great turnout and a beautiful day (despite some rocking waves in the Bay)!!  Thanks to all our Swimmers, Sponsors, and On-land Supporters for making this the 2014 Alcatraz Swim a Success!

 Here is a video of the waters we crossed on the day of the swim, June 7, 2014!

Ready to Swim the Alcatraz Escape with Team Hydro?!!

Registration for the 2015 SHARKFEST is open NOW at:  Make sure you check the  TEAM HYDRO box on the registration page!!

June 7th – ALCATRAZ Swim is Upon Us!

Some last minute reminders for those attending the swim tomorrow!

Team Hydro Table Location: We have an HQ in the grandstands to gather and listen to pre-race announcements, take a team photo, and walk together to the ferries! (Look for the TEAM HYDRO banner). Make this where you and your loved ones gather before (and after) the swim!

Race Check-in: Check-in runs from 5:30-6:45am. Once you check in at the Sharkfest desk, be sure to come to our Team Hydro Table by the Team Hydro Banner in the grandstands and pick up:

  • Your SPECIAL TEAM HYDRO/ SHARKFEST CAP!  Even if you have not fund-raised, wearing a cap helps raise awareness.  Please get yours and wear it with pride! These caps are made especially for us and provided by the Sharkfest organizers to support our Cause! The different color helps us stand out from the “regular” swimmers! :)
  • Your Team Hydro Swim Bracelet! We have a tradition at Team Hydro of allowing each swimmer to swim in honor or memory of a real person with Hydrocephalus. Along with each bracelet, we will give you a copy of the person’s personal Hydrocephalus Story. We have found this inspires our swimmers to race even faster, even as it helps to make this condition “Real” for those just seeking to understand.

After the Race, be sure to pick up some complementary hot chocolate and snacks in the Team Hydro area. We will also have tee shirts, sweatshirts, hats and towels for sale (cheap to swimmers). :) Show your Team Hydro Pride all year–and perhaps get a few compliments as people realize you conquered the Sharkfest Escape from Alcatraz Swim!!

We are so excited for tomorrow, and honored to swim with you all!

The Finlayson Family

Team Hydro Alcatraz Boasts Over 100 Registered Swimmers for 2014 — 3 of which are living with Hydrocephalus!!

That’s right, this Saturday, June 7th, over 100 swimmers will don special Team Hydro/Sharkfest swim caps before jumping off a ferry to swim the strong, icy currents from Alcatraz Island to Aquatic Park in San Francisco!  These brave, and dedicated Team Hydro Swimmers, all affectionately called “HydroSharks”, are using their swim to raise awareness and research funds to battle a life-threatening and incurable condition called Hydrocephalus.*
Big Group
Team Hydro is also very proud to report that  among the ranks this year, will be THREE Team Hydro Cap-wearing Swimmers who will be covering heads which also happen to be implanted with special devices called “shunts”–the most common form of treatment for hydrocephalus patients (and upon which, their lives depend!!)!  (A “shunt” is a catheter and valve system placed in the brain, to regulate the brain’s cerebral spinal fluid –without a working shunt, most persons with hydrocephalus will suffer coma and die.)
The fact that hydrocephalus is a difficult unpredictable condition that can happen to anyone at anytime, is proven by the stories of the Team Hydro members swimming with the condition:
First time Alcatraz swimmer, 17 year old Kate Damrell suffered a congenital form of hydrocephalus diagnosed when she was 7 months old.  Shortly after Kate was born, it was determined that she suffered from a condition where the bones in her skull, normally separate at birth, had prematurely fused together. Little Kate Damrell underwent a very long and painful skull surgery to correct that condition at 7 months, and received her first shunt for hydrocephalus when she was just a year and half old. Since that time Kate has required one shunt revision, as well as another difficult surgery near her brainstem at the base of her skull, in order to keep her hydrocephalus under control. But this has not stopped Kate from approaching life with vigor.  Kate swims for her high school swim team, and is active at school and in her community.  Still, having hydrocephalus has not been easy–in addition to the grueling surgeries, Kate lives with the uncertainty that her shunt could break at any time.  Kate’s father Frank will swim alongside Kate as they raise funds and awareness for research!
The possibillity of a shunt breaking or malfunctioning, is something, second-time Alcatraz swimmer Ryan Purdy understands well!  Ryan, who hails from La Jolla, CA swam his first Escape from Alcatraz Sharkfest very successfully in 2012!  He was all ready to swim last year, but a shunt revision placed him in the hospital instead.  BUT even BRAIN SURGERY could not stop Ryan from swimming again for the Cause!  Ryan returns this year ready to complete his 2nd Alcatraz swim for Team Hydro!  [Update: Ryan tragically slipped a disc in his back, and will be unable to swim this year.  But he’ll be back in 2015!]
Team Hydro’s third member is 16 year old Kyle Voulgaris.  Kyle, a high school student from Santa Barbara, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus when severe symptoms suddenly began for him at age 5.  Fortunately, Kyle’s shunts have worked well for him so far, allowing him to grow into a fast and strong swimmer!  Kyle, though seemingly so young to many of us, will already be completing his 5th Alcatraz Escape this year (where he often has been found atop the winner’s podium for his age-group) and has worked hard to raise funds to help promote hydrocephalus research.  This year Kyle has already secured over $6,000 in donations!!  Way to Go Kyle!!
Team Hydro is so proud of each and every one of our swimmers, sponsors, and on-land supporters, but we hope each of you Hydro-Sharks will understand our wanting to give a special “shout-out” to Kyle, Ryan, and Kate!  Their willingness to look past their own struggles, and work for the benefit of others who suffer their same condition (but often aren’t so lucky as to be able to live full and active lives), is truly INSPIRING !!
So on behalf of all your fellow Team Hydro Teammates:  GO KATE! GO RYAN! GO KYLE! We are especially proud to be and honored by swimming alongside each of you!! 
*Hydrocephalus is a neurological condition which occurs when the body is unable to properly regulate the flow of cerebral spinal fluid, or CSF in the brain. It can affect people of any age from babies in utero, to aging adults. An over-abundance of CSF causes a person to experience debilitating headaches, and memory issues. Shunts, while miraculous when working, are notoriously prone to breakage, clogging, and failure.  Patients often must under go numerous brain surgeries to replace their shunts and stay alive and sadly, 60% of children diagnosed with hydrocephalus will never live independently as adults. Team Hydro is working to fund research which will hopefully, one day find a replacement treatment for the shunt, or better yet–a cure for this difficult, life-threatening disease.

What if everything advanced as SLOWLY as hydrocephalus treatments?

Not much has changed in the treatment of hydrocephalus since 1960 (arguably since 1955) when shunts became the standard of care.  To put that in perspective, we wondered, what would life be like if we hadn’t made advances in other areas since the 50’s?  When you look at it this way…isn’t it time for a change?!   Help Support Hydrocephalus Research.

For example, this was cutting-edge photo technology when the shunt was developed…1955 Camera

In the world of sports, George Mikan was leading the Minneapolis Lakers to an NBA championship, and a 21 year old Mickey Mantle, along with a 28 year old Yogi Berra, were leading the Yankee’s to a 5th consecutive World Series Championship…

NBA 19551955 Mantle

In literature, Ernest Hemingway won the Pulitzer for “The Old Man and the Sea”…

1955 Hemingway

People who were buying new cars were driving these around – without seat belts…

1955 Chevy

and the ladies were wearing these…

1955 dresses

While listening to the Billboard #1 Hit…

1953 Song

Unacceptable, right?  Stand up today and help change the status quo, Support Hydrocephalus Research!