By Sasha Reddy
As HAC’s annual Frozen Frogman event quickly approaches, hundreds of participants and supporters have already begun to rally. Since the event’s inception in 2016, our community has raised over $100,000 and counting to support US veterans and their families. And it’s all thanks to one man’s “dumb idea”.
“I started maybe 30 years ago doing these extreme events,” says long-time HAC Member Bob McArthur. Now 72 years old, he’s traveled thousands of miles, even crossing national borders to compete in a variety of triathlons and other extreme fitness events. From the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon to IRONMAN® Canada to Dragon Boat Racing in the Hudson River, traveling with friends has always been half the fun of competing for Bob. “We’d always say to each other, ‘Whose dumb idea was this?’” he laughs.
Being a Vietnam veteran and long-time supporter of military causes, Bob was looking forward to participating in a 3-mile open-water swim event in Tampa Bay, Florida supporting the Navy SEAL Foundation in 2015. Unfortunately, he realized too late that the registration window had passed. When Bob gets the competitive bug, he tends to make plans in the heat of the moment. So, instead of finding another swim event or triathlon to compete in, Bob acted on his athletic impulse: he decided to plan his own event to swim in.
“During the 2017 Frozen Frogman, a total of $36,000 was raised – four times that of the previous year”
Having been a member at HAC for several years, Bob was familiar with the facility and its mission to make a positive impact on the community. He felt HAC would be the ideal host.
Though Bob’s desire to swim in a 5K event was the driving factor behind planning one, he also recognized the lack of serious swim events in the Northern Delaware area and felt that others would flock to sign up, too. After all, who wouldn’t be challenged by an outdoor swim in the middle of winter? So, he reached out to HAC General Manager John Peoples to see whether the gym would be willing to participate. John agreed, and the plan was set in motion.
“I’m not a swimmer, so initially I was a bit nervous about taking on the event,” says Lisa Maguire, Director of Marketing and Advertising at HAC, “but with Bob’s enthusiasm, expertise, and support, it turned out to be a hit.” With Lisa and John on board, Bob began reaching out to a wide array of local swimmers and triathletes to drum up interest for the event. He even connected HAC with the Navy Seal Foundation, who would be the beneficiary of the first Frozen Frogman swim, and amassed financial support from various local sponsors. “He was instrumental in getting the event off the ground and running,” Lisa says.
It was during the first Frozen Frogman event in 2016 that Bob came to know John Mosko, fellow HAC Member and Gold Star parent. John had registered to swim in the 5k event in memory of his son, Chris, who was killed during his deployment in Afghanistan in 2012. Upon meeting John and learning about the tragedy he endured and his continued advocacy for veteran support, Bob, Lisa, and John Peoples were touched. “For John, he’s tied to it. He’s got that personal relationship.” Bob says. John Mosko was an obvious choice to join the team in planning future Frogman events.
Per Bob’s suggestion, a fitness challenge was added to the Frozen Frogman that next year. This challenge was inspired by the BUD/S physical fitness screening administered by the Navy SEALS and includes a 500-yard swim, a 1.5-mile run, push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. Additionally, all three events were rebranded to honor military heroes, with the 3.1-mile swim being named for Chris Mosko.
With John’s dedication and Bob’s vision, the annual Frozen Frogman event quickly became a wild success. During the 2017 Frozen Frogman, a total of $36,000 was raised – four times that of the previous year – with proceeds benefiting the Travis Manion Foundation (TMF).
“Through John and the Travis Manion Foundation,” says Lisa, “we were able to expand the event substantially, and have sustained that growth for five, soon to be six, years.” By 2019, interest in the Frozen Frogman had grown so large that it was extended to a two-day event. In 2020, the event was even highlighted on 6abc news!
When asked about his expectations for the event in 2022, Bob replies with a smirk. “We’ve already got people asking.”
Though the Veterans Health Administration offers great health resources, the demand for care often exceeds supply, and there are many other forms of aid that cannot be provided by government-sanctioned programs. Many veterans and military families depend largely on other organizations like TMF to fulfill their more day-to-day-needs, from housing to putting food on the table. “There’s a lot of gaps to be filled”, as John Peoples describes, and members like Bob McArthur and John Mosko are so vital in helping fill those gaps. The greater Hockessin community cares deeply for the struggles of our soldiers and fallen heroes, and we couldn’t be more grateful to have such an enthusiastic audience supporting this cause alongside us.
Register for the Frozen Frogman here!
Navy Lt. Christopher E. Mosko was killed in an explosion that occurred during his deployment under Operation Enduring Freedom. The following months were fraught with emotions for John and the whole Mosko family – though some days were easier than others, Chris’s absence was still painful. Two years after his son’s death, John completed a 112-mile commemorative bike ride from Avondale to Bethany Beach. This one ride inspired years of advocacy for soldiers and veterans. John went on to partner with the Travis Manion Foundation, a veteran-focused non-profit organization that believes in “honoring the fallen by challenging the living” and organizing character-building programs to help teens understand the importance of leading by example. Since 2014, John has raised thousands of dollars for TMF, participated in a variety of their events, and even spoken at various high school student gatherings.