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The Power of Friendship & Family

Annette Bening and Jodie Foster star as Diana Nyad and Stamford's Bonnie Stoll in the upcoming film, NYAD

At age 64, Diana Nyad successfully swam from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida. She swam the 111 miles for nearly 53 hours without protection from shark and jellyfish infested waters.

Stamford native, Bonnie Stoll, is Diana Nyad's lifelong best friend. Friendship and family are the key ingredients to bring your biggest dreams to fruition.

NYAD - starring Annette Bening and Jodie Foster will be released on Netflix November 3rd. The movie is based on the book written by Diana Nyad: Find a Way: The Inspiring Story of One Woman’s Pursuit of a Lifelong Dream.  

Bonnie Stoll grew up in Stamford. “It was the perfect place to grow up…watching and learning from the teachers, coaches and my parents all helped in forming the person I am today. “ 

Bonnie was a formidable racquetball player and coach. Her nephew, Jason Stoll recalls, “What I really loved while growing up was watching Bonnie play racquetball. She was always a fierce competitor. I really enjoyed the way she would yell at herself for making mistakes on the racquetball court. She believed that she could get to any ball or make any shot and if she didn’t, she let herself know.”

Diana and Bonnie met at a racquetball tournament in Poughkeepsie. Bonnie recalls, “Diana was playing in the pro-am and asked if I could help her with her game. I don’t know whether or not her game improved but I do know that Diana taught me how important training is in any sport. We immediately became like two Labradors working out, which evolved into a trust between us that hasn’t ever been broken. To have a best friend and a sister, whom I can also call a best friend, has been an advantage in life.”

Bonnie’s sisterhood includes Diana, her sister Robin and Robin’s daughter, Jesse Morris. According to Jesse, “My Family is very devoted to one another. We love to gather for a delicious meal (or three) and talk… and talk and talk. As a group we’re energetic, honest, and direct – but these are also qualities we all rank highly in our individual selves as well. Bonnie and Diana share these traits.”

Jesse continues, “Their relationship is one of the strongest I’ve ever seen, and you can tell they’ve been tested to the max of both of their capabilities. Diana lives by the mantra to never give up. Bonnie, the ever grounded and logical voice of reason, has a drive to succeed in any task (as large as this swim or as small as her daily crossword) that is unmatched. Together, they are unstoppable.”

In describing both Diana and Bonnie, Jason adds, “The one word that describes both of them would be competitive. As for Bonnie I would say “real” and for Diana, it would be “persistent” or “unwavering.”

Jesse was onboard the boat for the second attempt. She remembers the experience, “It was an incredible production of support and logistics. It was unbelievable watching her swim. When I was on the boat as handler for my rotation and had no view of land –something I didn’t realize would be so unsettling – Diana still made jokes. She was happy, and at home in the water. And ultimately, even though that wasn’t the successful crossing, it was inspiring to watch how much they learned from that experience, from each other, and what they brought into the final successful crossing. And even though the swim has been completed, it’s always exciting to see what they'll do next.”

For Bonnie, “My favorite thing about Diana is her sense of adventure and her curiosity of how other people live. I have an advantage when Diana and I travel, Diana usually speaks the language of the inhabitants. I am learning Spanish as we speak, as I love the culture of the Latino countries.”

What does Bonnie think about the movie? “The movie, itself, has been, and continues to be, the most surreal experience of my life. Having Annette Bening and Jodie Foster portraying Diana and I is an honor to beat all honors. These two professionals are masters of their craft. I actually thought I was watching myself on the big screen. Jodie nailed me…in every way. .. mannerisms and all. Annette became a real swimmer. She trained in the pool for a year and, boy, has it paid off.”

The women forged a friendship based on respect. When asked for a favorite quote, Bonnie replied, “Show me, don’t tell me.”

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