By Brianna Arity
At 70 years old, Jim Phillips isn’t slowing down at all. The retired elementary school teacher of 41 years from Lead Deadwood, South Dakota swam for 12 hours straight on January 25, 2016 all to raise money to keep children active in his community.
He called it the “7 to 7 at 70″ because he swam non-stop from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on his 70th birthday. During his time in the water, he traveled 14.77 miles. Outside of the water, he raised $18,000 to help keep local youth swimming programs alive and well.
“I really just wanted to keep kids motivated, and keep positivity alive,” Phillips said. “There is so much in this world that is negative.”
The respected referee and coach of 54 years would have no problem hopping into the water again for that long, either.
“I’d do it again, but next time I’d go longer,” he said. “I should’ve kept going.”
Although Phillips had his head buried in the murky water for the bulk of the day, he attained some clarity during his swim.He decided that this year would be his last as a referee.
“During the 12-hour swim, I just had a thought of not refereeing anymore and spending more time with my grandkids, and out in the community with other kids,” he said. “It’s just time to hang up those [referee] shoes.”
Phillips is already very active in the community, working for the Black Hills Parks department and volunteering his time as a swim instructor for kids, some of them who have autism. He connects easily with young people.
“Kids need someone who is there for them and I’m perfectly comfortable being that person,” he said.
Phillips is an all-around athlete, who keeps busy by training for triathlons. Last summer, he even rode his bike 4,000 miles on the popular Michelson Trail in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Phillips is setting a great example for the generations to come.
“If I can have something to do with keeping kids active and being that positive light, then I think I’m doing my job,” he said.
As they say, age is just a number.