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'Creekman' takes extreme swim to benefit Ukulele Kids Club

Sunday News Correspondent

December 09. 2017 11:59PM
The snow didn't stop accordionist Gary Sredzienski from participating in an extreme swim to raise money for the Ukulele Kids Club on Saturday. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH - A local musician known as "Creekman" braved the snow Saturday, plunging into the water for an extreme swim for the Ukulele Kids Club.

Gary Sredzienski, of Kittery, Maine, has been participating in solo swims for charity for about 10 years.

Before getting into the Piscataqua River at the public boat launch near Peirce Island, Sredzienski entertained a crowd with accordion music at nearby Strawbery Banke.

Sredzienski said a lively performance was just what he needed before getting into the chilly water.

"It's really good to be hot. You have to elevate your body temperature because the water sucks it right out of you," Sredzienski told the crowd.

Sredzienski said he didn't care about the snow.

"When the snow collects on the water this time of year it's like swimming in a margarita. You can't see anything but the slush," Sredzienski said.

He explained that he wears specialized gear that is a combination of surfing and scuba equipment. He smears Vaseline on his face to help the only area of his body that is exposed.

Saturday's swim was about three miles in the river, through the back channels and up Sagamore Creek.

He was expected to make it to the Elks Lodge, where more music and other festivities were planned as part of the Ukulele Kids Club fundraiser.

Tom Duffy, of Nottingham, is on the national board of directors for the Ukulele Kids Club. Duffy said that as of Saturday morning, they had raised half of their $10,000 fundraising goal for the event.

The money is used to buy sick children ukuleles and to help place music therapists in hospitals. In New Hampshire, the organization works with Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover and Elliot Hospital in Manchester.

"Elliot is the first and only hospital with a full-time music therapist on staff, and they are based in the pediatric department. We provide the instruments," Duffy said.

Duffy explained that ukuleles are the perfect size for children in hospital beds and are easy to learn to play.

Duffy said the group serves almost 200 hospitals in the country.

Duffy said in addition to providing ukuleles in hospitals, they work with children who have been traumatized by natural disaster.

Ukuleles were sent to shelters in Houston so children affected by Hurricane Harvey could benefit from the healing power of music.

Plans are to send ukuleles to Puerto Rico to help children affected by Hurricane Maria and to California for wildfire victims.

The organization also has a presence in Canada and the United Kingdom, according to founder Corey Bergman.

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