Swimming the Alcatraz

Alcatraz, a small rocky island in the San Francisco Bay, is famous for the time it housed a federal prison for maximum-security inmates. It is believed that there have been no successful escapes from the prison, although 36 men tried. Since the prison was closed in 1963, people around the world have tried to escape their own limitations by swimming the mile-and-a-half distance in 52-degree water to the San Francisco shore.

Local residents Allison Stiles and her daughter, Jessica Stiles-Culver, joined Swim Neptune in April to complete the swim in what they both call one of the highest moments of their life.

“It’s definitely an experience worth doing. It’s amazing knowing that I swam it,” Jessica said.

Swim Neptune is a USA swimming club team with the mission of setting the standard for competitive swimming in Arizona. Allison, a coach in the Gila Valley, said, “It’s about escaping limitations — physically and mentally.”

Alcatraz is also a swim with a purpose. In the three years the team has participated in the swim from Alcatraz, it has raised $55,000 that has been used to sponsor learn-to-swim programs in Arizona.

Allison said, “Can we, as elite swimmers, prevent drowning in Arizona?” Swim Neptune certainly wants to find out.

On average, 75 swimmers, 50 of them children, participate each year. There are all shapes, sizes and ages. The youngest swimmers to finish the challenge were 7 years old, and the oldest swimmer was 63. Allison describes what follows the swim as a huge celebration. Everyone is recognized with a medal.

The swim from Alcatraz is not a race; it is about enjoying the swim and enjoying the awe and mystery of Alcatraz. If you are interested in taking the swim, Allison says it is important to start preparing yourself now. Call Allison Stiles at 928-965-4628 or go to for more information.


Walkers raise funds Benefit Boys & Girls Club

Sixty walkers in the Gila Valley Boys and Girls Club Salsa Walk helped raise $1,489 for the club this year.

The Salsa Walk is an annual walkathon to benefit the Gila Valley Boys and Girls Club. It is a 3.25 mile walk from Eastern Arizona Discovery Park Campus to the Safford City Hall in Downtown Safford.

This year, the walk was Saturday, Sept. 26, and began at 8 a.m. The Gila Valley Boys and Girls Club strives to help all young people reach their full potential as productive, caring and responsible citizens.

The club offers programs such as homework help and tutoring, anti-drug and alcohol, and sports and physical fitness.

“It’s a good cause. I was fortunate to raise some money. I hope it helps the kids,” said David Bixler, a retired Arizona Department of Corrections officer. Members of Team Depot, consisting of four Home Depot employees, said they are doing it for the kids.

Britney Hunt said, “Home Depot likes to help the community, so we try to do as much as we can to help the community.” Kathy Grimes, coordinator of the Salsa Walk, works for SEABHS in the area of community development.

“I like getting involved in the community,” Grimes said. Kamden, 4, and Leia Payne, 2, were pushed in a stroller by their father, Jonathan Payne. Walking with them was their great-grandmother, Judith Warren, who said, “It’s great fun to walk for the Boys and Girls Club. It’s a good cause.”

Laurie Armstrong, director of the Boys and Girls Club, said she is grateful to everyone who helped in the walk and in the donations. She gives special thanks to Kathy Grimes for everything she has done to make the Salsa Walk possible.

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