It was not a typical day in the pool for 23-year-old triathlete Hanna Sanchez.
The former member of the De La Salle University Green Tankers varsity team on Saturday did not swim for gold—but for the welfare of hundreds of abandoned dogs and cats who would otherwise end up starving, maimed or dead.
Sanchez is helping Cara (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals) Welfare Philippines, an advocacy group against animal cruelty, raise funds for its pet foster care program in the one way she knows best.
Over the last few days leading to Saturday’s event, an online campaign saw her pledging to swim a certain distance at the YMCA pool in Binondo, Manila, for a corresponding amount of money pledged to the Cara program.
Donors can “donate a fixed amount or pledge a peso per lap,” according to a campaign poster that had spread on social networking sites.
On her part, she vowed to complete as many as 900 laps in the 25-meter-long pool, and was in the water as early as 7 a.m. The project dubbed “Ultraswim for Cara” was set to end at 8 p.m. last night.
When the Inquirer caught her taking a break around noon, the pledges from individual donors had already reached P62,610, excluding the donations coming from corporate sponsors.
“People will probably ask: Why is she doing this?” she said. “Swimming all day is tiring and painful; I feel hungry after every lap, but I do not want to let Cara and the other animals down. This is it!”
Hanna, a Cara member who took up history at DLSU, started her love affair with animals as a child when her father brought home a cat to be the family pet. Today, she said, her Caloocan City household looks after “26 cats and 10 dogs.”
“I still want to adopt animals, but there’s no more space. Our house has already become a zoo,” she said.
Proceeds from Ultraswim will mainly go to three Cara initiatives: Food for the 164 pit bulls recently “rescued” in Laguna province, a medical fund to cover veterinary bills for other rescued cats and dogs, and a charity fund to help low-income families spay and neuter their cats and dogs.
“Unlike humans, animals cannot heal themselves. They are vulnerable and very prone to accidents,” said Sanchez, who had also donated money to Cara from her earnings as a part-time swimming coach and online writer.