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Double amputee, open water swimmer taking on Lake Tahoe with son
harry boucher pic
Harry Boucher, with his son Max in tow, will attempt to swim across Lake Tahoe on Sunday to raise awareness for children and adults with disabilities. - photo by Journal file photo

Harry Boucher knows a thing or two about adversity, and even more about overcoming it.

After being diagnosed with meningitis and a blood clotting disorder when he was 1 ½ years old, both of Boucher’s feet were amputated and the Turlock native became one of the country’s many disabled children with mobility issues.

Boucher pushed past his condition and the stigma of being disabled at age 10, however, when he joined the Turlock Swim Club. He continued swimming and even played water polo during his time at Turlock High and Modesto Junior College, proving that obstacles are meant to be overcome, able-bodied or not.

But Boucher’s truest and biggest test with adversity came when his son Max was diagnosed with cerebral palsy six years ago. With his son in a similar position as he was in when he was a child, Boucher decided he and Max would overcome life’s latest challenges together and in the water. And so two years ago when Max was 10 years old, the same age as his father when he discovered swimming as an outlet, he joined his father in a unique endeavor that saw the pair competing in the Lake Del Valle Open Water Swim, with Boucher in the water towing Max in a kayak.

Now, a month after completing a second swim at Lake Del Valle, the father and son duo are ready to embark on an even bigger challenge on Sunday: the iconic waters of Lake Tahoe.

“I was immediately thinking of something that would be a bigger challenge and almost immediately Lake Tahoe came to mind,” Boucher said. “I just wanted to do something on a larger scale, something that would raise more awareness and catch peoples’ eye more.”

With the aim to raise awareness for children and adults with disabilities and the need for more accessible activities and playgrounds, Boucher is stepping up from his 1.5 mile swim at Lake Del Valle to a 10 to 12 mile swim at Lake Tahoe.

“To my knowledge no one had every accomplished a swim like this,” Boucher said.

The swim will be longer, the water will be colder and the altitude will be higher, but Boucher is ready to tackle the test alongside his son and with the support of his family who will be following the pair in a boat.

“It’s a big motivation and inspiration, thinking about the hope of making a difference and achieving the goal of having more accessibility and opportunities for not only Max, my son, but for lots of kids,” Boucher said. “And with him being a part of that, hopefully it instills some inspiration in him.”

The swim will begin  at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at Sand Harbor State Park and is expected to end at 3 p.m. at Skylandia Beach near Tahoe City.