Dive Nonprofit Raises Over $20,000 for DAN’s Post-COVID Scuba Study
Courtesy Dive into the Pink/Bonnie Toth
“The day that we blew past $20,000, I sat at my kitchen counter, I put my head down and just cried,” said Allison Vitsky Sallmon, founder of Dive into the Pink.
Allison Vitsky Sallmon never thought she’d be planning pink-bedecked scuba charters. But then the veterinary pathologist received a breast cancer diagnosis at 33.
After recovering, she became a passionate supporter of cancer research and young patients. Outside of her day job, she launched Dive into the Pink, a small, salary-free nonprofit that raises money for the Young Survival Coalition and cancer research through an annual auction and underwater photo competition, as well as fundraising dive charters and trips.
When the COVID-19 pandemic spread earlier this year, Vitsky Sallmon decided on a temporary mission switch: 2020 was the year to dive for COVID instead of cancer. She reached out to Divers Alert Network, and “I just said, ‘Hey, is there a way that we can fund research on divers that have recovered from this coronavirus and look further into diving fitness in these individuals?’”
DAN was game. With dive charters out of the question this spring, Dive into the Pink rechristened their annual photo competition “Share Our Air” and set out to rustle up experiment funding.
Photos streamed in along the competition themes of “togetherness” and “divers” throughout May and June. Dive-related groups, including Gogh Jewelry, Blue Green Expeditions, and Crystal Blue Resort in Anilao, donated prizes for entrants. Australian artist Delaney Gray designed a t-shirt to raise additional money. And then “people just started daring each other to match funds,” Vitsky Sallmon said.
Australian artist Delaney Gray designed the photo contest logo, which was sold on fundraising t-shirts.
“We just had people calling up and saying, ‘‘We're going to donate $1,000 if you can get another thousand dollars donated’. This is a nonprofit that's basically just me and two other people. So to have people calling me up and saying I'm going to donate $1,000 — that's beyond what we normally get.”
In the end, more than $20,000 streamed in, with 75 percent of it from donations opposed to photo contest entries or t-shirt sales.
“The day that we blew past $20,000, I sat at my kitchen counter, I put my head down and just cried,” said Vitsky Sallmon. “Because I just couldn't believe that people were willing to do that with the way that this year was going and the uncertainty. It was a really good thing.”
DAN launched the five-year study in September. Divers that have recovered from COVID can still sign up to participate, which entails remotely responding to a series of surveys over five years on the respondent’s health and diving. DAN continues to accept donations to further its mission to keep divers safe and healthy.
“DAN was very pleased to accept a donation earlier this year from Allison Vitsky Sallmon's Dive into the Pink fundraiser” for the COVID-19 study, said DAN’s CEO Bill Ziefle in a written statement. “With a novel disease like this one, there are many unanswered questions about both the short-term and long-term effects, and this funding will contribute to the advancement of science for the benefit of all divers.”