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Swimming English Channel a Class Act

Mike Solberg D’89

If all goes as planned, when Mike Solberg D’89 climbs from the cold, choppy waters of the English Channel onto the French shore in September, he will be one step — and $50,000 — closer to building  a new school for an Angolan town still recovering from civil war.

Solberg visited Angola as part of a church partnership after the country’s civil war ended in 2002. Inspired by the Evangelical Congregational Church of Angola (IECA), Solberg began planning in 2005 to raise at least $50,000 to help rebuild a school in Waku Kungo, where 89 children were killed by a bomb blast during the conflict. The plan? To complete his longtime goal of swimming the 21-mile channel as a fundraiser for the school.

Solberg’s effort has been made possible by a National Clergy Renewal Grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The $45,000 grant is funding the cost of Solberg’s swim — including the boat that must follow him during his attempt — and other expenses during his three-month sabbatical from Second Congregational United Church of Christ in Rockford, Ill., where he is senior pastor.

An experienced triathlete and marathon runner, Solberg has been preparing for the English Channel swim for more than a year. His training will continue this summer in open water in San Francisco Bay, and then on location in Dover, England. According to the English Channel Swimming and Piloting Federation, fewer people have succeeded at making the Dover to Calais swim than have climbed Mt. Everest.

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