Swimming for Solace: Son's Quest to Honor Father's Legacy

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KING'S BEACH, Calif. -- People grieve in different ways; some distract themselves with a busy schedule and others seclude themselves, but Robby Schlesinger finds solace through swimming. He's on a mission to preserve his father's legacy by supporting the Solace Tree, an organization that supports others in mourning.

His friends and family think he's crazy. Why? He's swimming around the perimeter of Lake Tahoe in one month, which is about 70 miles.

"You're talking about 60 degree water," Schlesinger said. "You can see strong surface currents so you're dealing with muscle cramps, hypothermia, exhaustion the entire time; it takes a lot out of you."

The 23-year-old has been training for five months and even though he feels fully prepared, it's not death he's worried about.

"I am terrified of deep water. I'm not afraid of drowning or hypothermia or all of that. I don't like being in the super deep blue water where you don't know what's under there."

He's facing his fears in honor of his father, who completed the same swim when Schlesinger was born. When Robby was 15, his father got into a car accident. After undergoing surgery, he contracted staph infection on his third vertebrae, putting him in severe pain. About five years ago, he took his own life.

"I don't think a lot of people have that perspective. I don't think you can really understand unless you go through it," Schlesinger said.

Forced to grow up quickly, he became the man of the house and took care of his mother and sister. Instead of suppressing his memories, he decided to do something positive.

"It works on several levels. My solace getting in touch with dad, having lost him and trying to get a little bit closer to him and fill that void and at the same time give back to the people who are going through something similar."

Schlesinger is raising money for the Solace Tree, a local non-profit organization that helps kids, teens and families cope with a loss.

"People don't feel comfortable with the idea of death, people don't feel comfortable talking about it," he said. "Solace Tree provides a place where they can talk about it. They can take those really really violent emotions that kept inside for years and they can express it."

So far, Swimming for Solace has raised about $3,000 for the Solace Tree.

"He's giving our organization a voice," Emilio Parga, Solace Tree executive director said. "There's so much unresolved grief in the world, and for someone to step up and say, 'there was tragedy in my life, now that you exist, I'd like to raise money.' Not only is he raising money, but he's raising awareness."

Schelsinger's journey begins Kings Beach on August 3, hoping the challenge will inspire others and preserve the memory of his fallen hero.

"If that's all it winds up being just a little alarm saying 'hey people wake up' then I'm happy with that too."