Peterborough roots paved way to Ohio Hall of Fame

Jimmy Smith, former Peterborough resident
(Staff photo by Nick Reid)

Jimmy Smith, former Peterborough resident (Staff photo by Nick Reid) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

PETERBOROUGH — His friends in the Monadnock region know him as Jimmy. But in Ohio, the 64-year-old Peterborough native goes by his given name, Donald Smith, and it’s under that name that he was inducted last month into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.

Smith was nominated for the honor by the Diabetes Youth Services in Maumee, Ohio. Every year on Groundhog Day, which happens to be his birthday, Smith swims 300 laps in the YMCA pool in Defiance, Ohio, with donors he has personally contacted pledging a contribution for each lap. To date, he has raised nearly $100,000 for the diabetes organization.

“I got involved by accident,” Smith said last week in Peterborough, where he was visiting his aunt, Flora Smith, and getting in some fishing. “I’ve always been a swimmer. I learned at Adams Pool when I was a kid. Peterborough had one of the best summer pool programs anywhere.”

After reading a pamphlet about the Diabetes Youth Services swimming fundraiser, Smith, who was a longtime recreational swimmer, decided to give it a try. His doctor, who pledged $100 if Smith swam 100 laps, was his first donor.

“I made $1,700 the first year,” Smith said. “Five years ago, I upped it to 300 laps ­— that’s about four and a half miles. I take just under four hours. This year I raised $21,044.”

Smith graduated from Peterborough High School in 1967 and went off to college at Defiance College in Ohio. “I wanted to be a YMCA recreation director,” he said. But after earning a degree in social work in 1971, he enlisted in the U.S. Army after getting a low number in the Selective Service draft lottery. He served as a social worker, helping military families at Fort Wolters in Texas, and after his enlistment ended, he went to work at a state hospital in Lima, Ohio, where he did social work and vocational and rehabilitation counseling for 20 years. He then worked as a probation officer for 12 years.

Smith and his wife, Connie, have lived in Continental, Ohio, for 38 years, but he’s always kept his connection to Peterborough.

“I come back every four months or so,” Smith said. “This whole thing about volunteering, I learned that in Peterborough.”

The money Smith raises goes to Big and Little Shots Camps — educational camps run by Diabetes Youth Services for children with type 1 diabetes.

“It’s a scholarship fund and no kid is ever turned away,” Smith said. “I tell them, let me know what you need. We’ll get the money.”

Anyone wishing to contribute to the program, Smith said, may do so by sending a check made out to Diabetes Youth Services to his home address: Donald Smith, 200 West Grove Street, Continental, Ohio, 45831.

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