Charity is the more fortunate helping the...

BY DEFINITION,

July 20, 1992

BY DEFINITION, charity is the more fortunate helping the less fortunate. Increasingly of late, though, charity has become a test of strength. Walk for the disabled. Run for the homeless. Swim for medical research. Triathlon for "Make a Wish."

The most strenuous of these has become the annual Chesapeake Bay swim, held this year June 28 to benefit the March of Dimes. For the second year in a row, the majority of well-intentioned swimmers failed to negotiate the 4.4 miles from Sandy Point to Kent Island. Strong currents and wind-blown waves pulled swimmers far off course. Rescuers had to pluck 283 of 331 swimmers from the water this year, 720 of 884 last year.

Sponsors put the best face on it. They took extra safety measures. Several dozen radio-equipped boats and 40 kayaks were on hand to rescue swimmers. The Coast Guard had four of its own boats on the scene (at taxpayers' expense). The event was much better organized, but with the same results.

Organizers point out that the swim was conducted without incident for many years; the winds and tides of 1991 and '92 were unfortunate coincidence. They point out that runners and cyclists drop out of charity races, too. But not the majority of them. This is an event waiting for an accident. Those who benefit from it ought to ask themselves if there are safer ways to be charitable.

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