Skip to main content
Partner logo
Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Mobile Icon Link Gamecocks+
General  . 

Making a Difference in the Past and the Future

by Brad Muller

Grace Daniels knows something about going the distance, and not just in the pool. South Carolina’s rising sophomore distance swimmer already has plans to be a speech pathologist whenever her athletics career is over, and as a youngster she founded a non-profit charity to raise money for the less fortunate near her hometown.

“Your sport can be used for so much more than actually just doing the sport,” said Daniels, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, who competes in the 400 individual medley and the mile events for the Gamecocks. “Your age shouldn’t define how much you can make a difference in your community.”

Daniels founded the non-profit charity Laps for Love in 2015 when she was only ten years old. She found inspiration while traveling to a swim meet with her father on a hot summer day and passed through an economically depressed area near Shelby, North Carolina.

“Any time I would get a new best time in any event, I would get a little bit of money as motivator,” Daniels said. “Usually, I would spend the money on something silly like lip gloss or whatever a ten-year-old wants. We were driving home from the meet, and it was over one hundred degrees outside. I saw some houses that didn’t have windows and didn’t have air conditioning. I remember seeing kids sitting on the front lawn, and the grass was brown. It was sad. It broke my heart.”

Daniels told her father she wanted to do something to help, and he suggested she look up local organizations, and that’s where she found the Charlotte Rescue Mission, which is local Christian non-profit organization that helps people who struggle with addiction. Then she wrote a letter and a check to give the organization her savings, which were a little over one hundred dollars. That led to a phone call from the Charlotte Rescue Mission.

“I went there to meet with them, and we talked about how to make this a bigger thing, and it evolved from there,” Daniels said.

That meeting led to the creation of Laps for Love.

“We recruited neighborhood summer league swim teams, and USA teams,” Daniels said. “We would create relay races between teams or just make your own team with friends. You would take turns to swim as many laps as you could in 30 minutes. We had prizes for the winners and for which team raised the most money. People could donate per lap, sponsor a swimmer, or could just give a flat donation. We had a web site you could donate during the event.”

Grace Daniels
“You really can make a difference, if you try.”
Grace Daniels  . 

Over the next seven years, she recruited friends to create a board and help organize the event. The Laps for Love event grew, and Daniels’ efforts led to more than $365,000 being raised for the Charlotte Rescue Mission.

“It was crazy that something that started when I was 10 grew to be this huge thing,” Daniels said. “It was great that so many people cared about this and wanted to take part. When I first started, it was scary to go out there and ask people for money, but I think this has taught me to be more confident and improved my social skills and made me want to do more with my sport. You really can make a difference, if you try.”

Now that she spends most of her time at school, Daniels is already looking forward to a career where she can help others in a different way.

“My mom owns her own practice for speech/language pathology, so I am hoping to join her one day and eventually take that over for her,” Daniels said. “I have always wanted to do something within the medical field, and that is a growing field right now. I’ve seen her work with kids, and I shadowed with her last summer to see if it would be something that I was interested in. I ended up loving it, and that’s when I knew that I wanted to be a public health major.”

Daniels now gets involved with some community service efforts with the South Carolina swimming and diving team when time allows. She also enjoys focusing her efforts in the pool, where she has enjoyed competing since she was nine years old.

“It’s the people that I’ve met through all the teams I’ve been on that I like the most about swimming,” Daniels said. “Obviously, I like the sport, and I like competing. It’s a very mentally challenging sport, and it’s a very individual sport. I like the challenge of working out every day, and I do like the social aspect of it in meeting people from all over the world.

“When I took a tour at South Carolina, I had a gut feeling that this was the place for me.”

Grace Daniels