Freedom. What does the word mean to you?
Many will agree that freedom means living in a free country. Some, although will not admit it, take this luxury for granted because they cannot imagine NOT living in a free society. Since, freedom, is all they ever knew.
But for millions, the struggle is real to get a taste of what Americans enjoy every day of our lives. Many have spent sleepless nights dreaming about the day they can call the United States of America home.
“I love America, God Bless America. It upsets me sometimes when people take for granted their freedom,” said Eleonora Rumbaugh, swim coach at Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA in Myrtle Beach. “They just think they are entitled to everything. At home, we have to work hard to get the small things.”
Rumbaugh was born in Bulgaria. She says she had a wonderful childhood, but it was when she became an adult that she realized her country changed.
“I started realizing that our country was not as great anymore. There was corruption, and there was a lot of crime,” said Rumbaugh. “When I went to college, I just felt that was my country, but that is not where I wanted to live anymore and build a family.”
So, she decided to pursue her dream to make a better life for herself and move to the United States of America.
Rumbaugh’s passion is swimming. It was that passion which turned out to be her golden ticket to freedom. She has been swimming since kindergarten and competitively for ten years.
“I came here on a student visa; it’s called a J-1. It gives a lot of opportunity to students to see how the lifestyle is here, to work here, to travel as well,” said Rumbaugh. “Once I got here, I said that was it. I love that country, and I decided to stay.”
A short time later the American Red Cross contacted the Bulgarian Red Cross, which Rumbaugh belonged since she was a lifeguard on the Black Sea. When Red Cross officials asked if she wanted to go to the United States to become a lifeguard, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I said that’s my dream so let’s go,” said Rumbaugh.
Rumbaugh arrived in America in 2003 and was sworn in as a United States citizen in 2011.
“That was the happiest moment in my life. We got sworn in, in Charleston and I just cried through the whole ceremony,” said Rumbaugh. “The process was tough, but everything was worth it because that was the best moment of my life.”
Today you will find Rumbaugh sharing her love for swimming by teaching others.
One of those learning from Rumbaugh is Triathlete Chip Parrot.
“Her confidence in me is what made me want to work hard,” said Parrot. “She is passionate about what she does which makes me want to work hard.”
Parrot had to face his fears before stepping into the water, and he had to learn to trust Rumbaugh.
“When we first started, I wanted to tell her that I haven’t been in the water for a long, long time and she smiled and said everything is going to be fine,” said Parrott. “I needed to hear that because it is intimidating to get in the water, especially to swim laps, not just playing around.”
While Rumbaugh is thankful to call the United States home, Parrot is grateful that she worked hard to get here. Because without her passion for swimming, he would not be half the athlete he is today.
“I am very lucky and blessed to have her; we have a good time out there swimming,” said Parrot.
For more information on swim lessons at the Claire Chapin Epps Family YMCA click here.