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Everyone gets wet at The Crossing on Lake Gaston - especially the swimmers

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Army Master Sgt. Cedric King, a first-time Crossing participant and Norlina, N.C. native with O'Sail director Kathy Dikeman. King lost both legs from an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan. Below, swimmers emerge on the other side of Lake Gaston with floats bobbing in the background. / August 10, 2014
For ten years, 150 dedicated volunteers with Lake Gaston’s leading civic organization, O’Sail, have hosted an August spectacle on the lake — The Crossing.

This year, the Crossing took place on a very rainy Saturday morning, Aug. 9, yet nevertheless drew a record crowd. The attraction: A chance to traverse the span of Lake Gaston at Eaton’s Ferry Bridge, N.C. — whether by foot over the highway bridge, by boat, float or kayak, or by swimming one mile across the lake.

The swimming event originates at Morningstar Marina’s The Pointe and ends at Watersview Restaurant on the opposite shore. It’s a competitive race for some, a leisurely dip for others, and fun for all.

The Crossing is a charitable fundraising event sponsored by O’Sail (Organization to Support the Arts, Infrastructure and Learning on Lake Gaston) and takes place each year, the second Saturday in August. O’Sail director and event organizer Kathy Dikeman said it is designed to provide fun and entertainment while raising funds for organizations that support the lake or exist around Lake Gaston.

The idea for the Crossing came from her family, many of whom are tri-athletes.

Among the swimmers this year was 79-year-old Sherman Merchant, the senior-most participant who made his eighth appearance at the Crossing. (It takes Merchant about an hour to swim the mile distance). A first-time Crossing participant was Master Sgt. Cedric King, a native of Norlina, N.C., a few miles from Eaton’s Ferry Bridge. King acknowledged that swimming across the lake would pose quite a test: A double amputee, he lost both legs after surviving an IED blast while on patrol in Afghanistan two years ago.

King said he did not know how long it would take to cross Lake Gaston. “I’m not supposed to be swimming. I know I won’t be the fastest and I hope I won’t be last, but that’s okay. I just want to be able to look back and say, ‘Wow, I did that, and didn’t know that I could.’”

King, who currently resides at Walter Reed Hospital as he continues his rehabilitation, said he was swimming to “challenge himself and to see if he could do it,” and hopes to inspire others. “Everyone has something they want to do. If they see me, maybe they’ll think if he can do that than I can do anything I want to.”

King’s wife of 14 years, Khieda said she was not surprised by her husband’s decision to attempt the Crossing.

A few of the organizations that benefit from O’Sail’s fundraising efforts are Citizens for Animal Protection, Coast Guard Auxiliary, KIPP Gaston College Preparatory School, Friends of Lake Gaston Association, the Lake Gaston Chamber of Commerce, the Lake Gaston Fire Department, the Lake Gaston Water Safety Council, and two local volunteer fire departments, Littleton and Longbridge.

“Our volunteer staff works extremely hard to find donations covering all aspects of our events keeping expenses to an absolute minimum, and returning nearly every dollar raised to the Lake Gaston community,” said Dikeman.

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