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Swimming for a cause: U. City’s Henry Biggs raises money for Ferguson youth initiatives

Henry Biggs
Courtesy of Henry Biggs

Henry Biggs, an entrepreneur and former dean at Washington University in St. Louis, had a big goal in mind that involved a 27-mile swim for a good cause.

On July 15, Biggs swam around Manhattan to raise funds for educational and mentoring initiatives in Ferguson.

As a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters for over 30 years, Biggs has mentored several youth throughout the St. Louis region. When he saw the unrest in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown, he felt compelled to get involved in creating positive changes for the region. With the help of the United Way, he decided to raise $100,000 and has already exceeded the goal.

“We broke $100,000, but we really need to have more,” Biggs said. “What I would ideally like to see is for this to be more of an endowment that lasts, so that the Ferguson area can be helped for a while.”

To prepare for the swim, Biggs went through a series of qualification tests that included a timed 3-mile swim, a 4-hour swim at 60 degrees, and a series of antibiotic vaccinations.

Biggs’ “Little Brother” Jaymel, documented the event. The two became “brothers” through the Big Brothers Big Sister program while Biggs was a college student and Jaymel was a mentee.  

Biggs plans to put together a committee of people from Ferguson to help plan how the funds are distributed. “I would ideally love to see somebody from the Ferguson Commission also be on [the committee] and somebody probably from the United Way,” he explained. “But, definitely people that are from the Ferguson area who know best what will help out those local charities.”

Besides his skills as a swimmer, Biggs is also a former rapper. Known as Headmess, his raps served as an instruction tool and earned him the moniker of ‘dean by day, rapper by night.’

Listen to the audio to hear samples of his music.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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