Greg O'Connor with Bob Fernald guiding the 2014 Swimmer Scouts

Greg O'Connor
NEKOWSA's 2014
Unsung Hero

There are literally hundreds of unsung heroes that make the Kingdom Games possible each year.


Sometimes they are neighbors on this side of the Lake Memphremagog, close by The Clubhous. Sometimes they travel great distances just to help.


They share the vision. They share the high spirited, good willed energy of the events. They appreciate that many of these games are more than mere events, they are adventures.  They join the adventure.  They sacrifice to help out. I mean like BIG TIME.


Like Marianne Eaton or Mark Whitt, they travel from Bristol, VT or Lewiston, NY to volunteer to kayak and escort swimmers they don't even know. Or the "Boat People" who bring their motor boats out on the lakes we swim, sometimes in "frisky" conditions (can you spell "tornado warnings?"), or sit for hours checking off swimmers as they round certain buoys. Or join with us year after year, to help blow up and lay buoys for particular swims. Some have even traveled across the country to provide a show of support and kayak for a great "sister swim" in Arizona. (SCAR). Or give us their 50th wedding anniversary to make waffles for swimmers as they come out of the water at Kingdom Swim. Just a few examples.


The family of volunteers and supporters grows stronger each year. They made it possible to hold 15 days of open water swimming in the NEK in 2014 and another 30 more days of running, biking, kayaking, speedskating, Nordic Skating, and pond hockey.


So, to name one as Unsung Hero of the Year is really to name all. It is a recognition not only of an individual whose contribution has been HUGE, but also to acknowledge the contributions of all.


This year's NEKOWSA Unsung Hero Award goes to Greg O'Connor of Nattick, MA. It's true that Greg has garnished many accolades as a Triple Crown Marathon Open Water Swimmer and as organizer of the Boston Light Swim. But he is a true example of a swimmer who gives back.


He was the very first person to sign up for the very first Kingdom Swim in 2009. He was one of the first to sign up and one of only four to complete the very first In Search of Memphre in 2011. And, he was one of the few to sign on for the very first Great Skate the length of Lake Memphremagog last winter (and the first to sign up to return in 2015). And that is very much part of it. First line of support for an event or a series of events is for athletes to sign up and do them. And Greg has been right there right from the start, signing on, pushing the paypal button and supporting these games with his presence and with his wallet and sometimes with a shovel.



Greg has quietly helped organize the growth of these swims and has been a steady source of wise advice for many years. 


But there is so much more.


When Greg completed The Search in 2011, he said he was glad he did it and he would never do it again. But he was back the very next year to pilot a pontoon and assure that this extraordinary expedition and adventure would continue. And he's piloted a boat In Search of Memphre every year since. This year, when his boat became unexpectedly unavailable, he took command of a 16 foot aluminum boat without a blink (well almost without a blink) to lead the first wave of swimmers out of Newport Bay with the beacon by his side guiding the way.  He sat on the hard bench of that boat with Bob Fernald through the night and for over 16 hours.


When we added a new 15 mile Border Buster course to this year's Kingdom Swim, Greg was there at the Newport Marina at 4 am (after about 3 hours sleep), picking up the pontoon to lead the Border Busters to Canada, beyond Province Island, and back.


Greg is the kind of guy who doesn't just "touch the rope"  he gets right in there and pulls and pulls hard. 


Greg isn't a local. He lives in Natick, MA. He drives 4 hours and a couple hundred miles one way to Newport just to support these swims. He has become a friend and is a quiet, unsung hero of these games.


Thanks to Greg and so many like him who make these games possible. How do I love you? Let me count the ways.