Not much scares Jordan Freer. Not ocean currents. Not icy water. Not sharks. And certainly not defeat.
Fifty years after three prisoners’ notorious escape (and disappearance) from Alcatraz, the 9-year-old girl from tiny Lotus, California swam 1 ½ miles from Alcatraz to San Francisco to raise money for Nothing But Nets. Her Memorial Day journey made Jordan the youngest girl known to do so, and one of the youngest people ever to swim from Alcatraz across the bay.
“I knew I could do it, but I was nervous before,” Jordan explained. “I really love swimming.”
So far, her dedication has raised more than $3,000 to help send bed nets to protect South Sudanese refugees from malaria. To donate to Jordan’s effort, visit her Crowdrise page.
At home in water, Jordan trained for months with her dad, Tom Freer, in nearby Folsom Lake outside Sacramento. Tom, 43, swam a bit ahead of Jordan, keeping them on course and shouting encouragement when her head bobbed above water.
A crowd of relatives and friends from the northern California cheered her on from land, waving homemade posters and running to catch sight of her neon pink swim cap. About 45 minutes after she jumped into the frigid waters of the bay, her mother Heather was wrapping her in a giant hug, handing her a celebratory cup of cocoa and her beloved stuffed companion, Beary. (But not before a television reporter stopped her for an interview before she’d reached the finish line!)
For Heather, 42, spectating was more nerve-wracking. “I had this sudden flood of relief she’d jumped off the boat because that was the part she was most nervous about,” Heather said, “followed by, ‘Oh my God, my daughter’s in the bay!’”
The Freers are passionate about combining their love for the outdoors (the family runs a rafting company and Tom and Heather regularly ski, swim, and compete in triathlons) with a larger cause. Their three children have piggy banks with three compartments: one for saving, one for spending, and one for giving. “That’s kind of the mindset we want to encourage in them,” Heather said.
Ever since Tom read sports columnist Rick Reilly’s original piece on malaria, he has been a devotee of Nothing But Nets. “That article really resonated with me,” he said. “What really sucked me in was the power of $10. If everybody does just a little bit, then we can accomplish a ton.”
On June 11, Jordan spoke in detail about her incredible achievement on the Capital Public Radio program Insight; listen here!
A huge thank you and congratulations to the Freer family for their incredible commitment to the fight against malaria! If Jordan’s story inspires you, visit Nothing But Nets’ donation page to send a net and save a life!