Organizations Profiles

90-Year-Old Woman Swims for Charity

Charlotte Sanddal
IMG: Nick Wolcott / Chronicle

A Helena woman is still setting swimming records at 90, and doing so for a good cause. Charlotte Sanddal first started swimming long-distance when she joined the Navy in 1944. Growing up near Lake Michigan, Sanddal was no stranger to swimming in chilly waters. These days, the water isn’t quite as cold, and she’s swimming as much as ever.

She first decided to begin swimming long distance after watching an older man do it. “Playing in the pool… I saw this man, this gray haired man, swimming back and forth, back and forth and that made an impression on me,” she recalled. Even at the age of 90, Sanddal still swims every day and competes.

Most recently, she finished a one-mile swim to benefit “Friends of Centennial Trail,” which is raising money to complete Helena’s Centennial trail. When finished, the trail will run west and east and will accommodate walkers and bikers from Spring Meadow Lake to East Helena. It aims to be a “safe” trail that is free of automobiles. The federal government is matching funds on a 1:7 ratio—in other words, an individual donation of $100 will lead to another $700 donated by the federal government.

“It’s for a good cause, and a way to kick off the New Year,” said Peggy Stinger, who is a master coach at Capital City Health Club, where the swim took place. “She is just my dearest friend and inspiration.”

Indeed, who wouldn’t be inspired by a woman such as Sanddal? She has a world record in the 90-94 age group for the 50-meter butterfly, as well as two national records: the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke. Next summer, she plans on competing at the 2013 World Masters in Torino, Italy.

“Believe me, anyone can do it,” she humbly says of her achievements. “I get my inspiration from people who say that I am their inspiration. If I at 90 can inspire someone… ‘Well, if she can do it, maybe I can, too,’… I like hearing that… [it] keeps me going.”