Nantucket Nurse Recalls “Pivotal Time” in Administering Hospital’s First Immunotherapy Treatment

Gretchen Hull
Swim Across America – Nantucket
Hometown: Nantucket, MA
10 years supporting Swim Across America
Age: 49

Gretchen Hull is a triple threat supporter of Swim Across America. She’s an oncology nurse and Director of Infusion Services at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, passionate about health and personal wellness, and a swimmer!

In Gretchen’s own words, “the mission of Swim Across America – Nantucket – to support cancer services and research – aligns perfectly with my professional and personal goals.”

Gretchen has worked at Nantucket Cottage Hospital since 2002 and has been involved with Swim Across America for over a decade. It wasn’t until 2014, when Keytruda, of which Swim Across America assisted funding research, first became available at NCH, that she truly felt the impact and miracle of groundbreaking immunotherapy research.

“When Keytruda became available in 2014 there were only two chemotherapy certified nurses at NCH. I was the first nurse at my facility to administer Keytruda for its first indication. I knew it was a pivotal time in cancer care.”

Gretchen watched how the introduction of immune therapy changed the course of patient’s lives and trajectory of cancer diagnosis from terminal to chronic and curative at times. Moreover, how immunotherapy redefined how we view cancer and how cancer treatments have expanded across multiple types of cancer and benefited millions of people.

“I have to emphasize to nurses beginning their practice after the dawn of immunotherapy exactly how groundbreaking it is. I use the term “miracle” when referring to some outcomes.”

This year, Gretchen will swim the 4-mile course at Swim Across America – Nantucket.

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.


Read or watch local stories featuring the Swim Across America-Tampa Bay community to learn about their impact. Learn more about the event and beneficiary, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, at

Swim Across America Blog –

Breast Cancer Survivor Finds an Inspiring Way to Mark Two Milestones

Suncoast News Network TV

Tampa mother and son swimming for cancer research

Spectrum 9 News TV

Tampa Breast Cancer Survivor Trains With Son for 2-Mile Swim

ABC Action News

Wesley Chapel mom, son plan to swim 2 miles to raise money for cancer research

Yahoo! Life

Mother, son join Swim Across America for cancer research

Tampa Beacon

Wesley Chapel mother-son duo to swim for cancer research

ABC Action News

Wesley Chapel mother and son swim for a cure

WFTS-TV Spot on Florida

(ABC Action News story) Wesley Chapel mother and son swim for a cure

WFTS-TV Spot on Florida (Video)

VIDEO: Wesley Chapel mother and son swim for a cure

WTSP-TV 10 Tampa Bay

Mother celebrates being cancer free by swimming at Swim Across America event with son

WTVT-TV FOX13 News at Noon

Wesley Chapel Cancer Survivor shares a special afternoon with her son

What’s in Your SAA College Ambassador Member Kit?

Swim Across America College Ambassadors are are part of the next generation of leaders. They support SAA by helping to engage the younger audience, promoting the Swim Across America mission and brand and encouraging their local communities’ involvement. Once you have been selected, we’ll reach out to congratulate you and send you an SAA College Ambassador’s Member Kit in the mail so you can show off your SAA spirit and be set up for success.

Here’s what you can expect in the mail:

1. Swim Across America Trucker Hat

Enjoy the exclusive Swim Across America College Ambassador’s Trucker Hat with our popular Wave logo. Perfect to throw on while enjoying time outside or walking to class.

2. Swim Across America Water Bottle

Stay hydrated and show your support with your new SAA branded water bottle.

3. Swim Across America Stickers & Buttons

Show your love on your car, laptop, backpack or jacket with the sticker and button we’ll be sending to help you spread the word about SAA!

4. Boost Your Fundraising Tips Sheet

Utilize these resources to help boost your fundraising and make a bigger impact!

Finding a Lifeline in the Swim Across America Community

Dalton Sousa
Swim Across America – Boston
Hometown: Carver, MA
5 years supporting Swim Across America
Age: 23

Dalton Sousa is no stranger to swimming or Swim Across America. He is a long-time supporter of Team Roethke at Swim Across America – Nantucket and swam with the Roger Williams University swim team at Swim Across America – Rhode Island.

“The mission to ‘End Cancer’ is something I have felt connected to for years. My hometown and many of my closest friends have been personally affected by cancer. I remember crying in class after hearing that one of my friends and classmates had passed away from cancer in 2015. He fought bravely at Dana-Farber Medical Center.”

It wasn’t until this year that he had an even more personal reason to dive in. In January 2023, Dalton’s mother, Toni, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“Now, Swim Across America is so much more than just a worthy cause for me. It has become a lifeline, a community of friends and family, who have rallied around a similar goal to end cancer.”

Dalton set out to raise funds in honor of his mom, who is being treated at Beth Israel Hospital-Plymouth. He created Team Sousa in January and in a few weeks, they raised over $11,000.

Toni’s spirits are high and it’s clear this tight-knit family is in the fight together and keeping a positive outlook.

“My mom has been one of the biggest influences on my life that has allowed me to be as successful as I have been. Swimming has been a huge part of my life. Whether it was as a swim parent, a New England official, or a fan my mom always tried to support everyone. She taught me to make the best out of difficult situations.”

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.

Swim Across America Nantucket Honored to Extend Support to Mass General Cancer Center

Mass General Cancer Center Joins the Swim’s Other Beneficiaries Nantucket Cottage Hospital Oncology Program and Palliative and Supportive Care of Nantucket.

NANTUCKET, Mass., April 26, 2023 – Swim Across America Nantucket is pleased to announce that Mass General Cancer Center will join Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s Oncology Program and Palliative and Supportive Care of Nantucket as a beneficiary of the Swim Across America Nantucket Open Water Swim event. The Swim Across America Nantucket open water swim has been held each Summer since 2012 and makes waves in the fight against cancer. This year’s event will be Saturday, July 22, 2023. 

In addition to continuing to support the two local beneficiaries, Mass General will provide a research component to the list of services supported by Swim Across America Nantucket’s annual fundraising event.  Dr. Bryan Choi, MD, PhD, is an attending neurosurgeon in the Department of Neurosurgery and the Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology at Mass General. He specializes in surgical care for patients with benign and malignant brain tumors. During his neurosurgery residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital, he pursued a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Marcela Maus, focused on developing CAR T-cell therapies for cancer. He also leads a research laboratory with the goal of developing the next generation of cell therapies and clinical trials in neuro-oncology.

“We are very honored to have the opportunity to support Dr. Choi in his work in CAR T-cell therapies,” said Jim Pignato, co-event director of Swim Across America Nantucket.  “Adding a funding arm with a research component has been something we’ve been exploring. Teaming up with Dr. Choi and Mass General Cancer Care is a natural fit.”

“Dr. Choi’s work is groundbreaking and holds the potential to shift the paradigm of treatment for an otherwise devastating disease,” said Keith Erickson, director of development at Mass General Hospital.

“Our vision is to continue to help serve the Nantucket patient, from diagnosis through treatment, while also offering this very important research component, that will help all patients, not only those on Nantucket”, said Jill Roethke, co-event director of Swim Across America Nantucket.

This announcement comes on the heels of a banner 10th year for Swim Across America Nantucket, where more than $600,000 was raised for on-island cancer services and patient care in 2022. 

Swim Across America was founded in 1987 with its first open water event in Long Island Sound. Since that time, the nonprofit organization has raised more than $100 million to fight cancer. In its 36 years of “making waves to fight cancer,” more than 100,000 swimmers and 150 Olympians have swum the circumference of the earth three times, uniting a movement to fight cancer that has created a groundswell of support spanning all generations. Today, more than 24 communities hold open water swims and charity pool swims each year, from Nantucket to under the Golden Gate Bridge, which support innovative cancer research, detection and patient programs. 

Swim Across America’s funding of clinical trials for patients helped contribute to four FDA approved life-saving immunotherapy cancer treatments: Yervoy, Opdivo, Tecentriq and Keytruda. More than 60 scientific grants are funded each year and there are now ten dedicated Swim Across America Labs at major institutions including: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, John Hopkins Medicine Baltimore, Rush University Medical Center Chicago, Baylor Scott & White Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center New York, Infusion Center at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Lounge at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and San Francisco, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

To register to swim, volunteer or donate, please visit  Instagram: @saanantucket  Facebook: @saanantucket.Swim Across America Nantucket

About Swim Across America Nantucket:

Since 2012, Swim Across America Nantucket has raised more than $4 million for its beneficiaries: Nantucket Cottage Hospital and Palliative and Supportive Care of Nantucket.  Each year Swim Across America Nantucket is proud to host more than 400 swimmers and volunteers, spectators and supporters, as well as Olympians near and far at the charity swim. This year’s swim will take place on Saturday July 22, 2023, at Jetties Beach on the island of Nantucket.  

Promising CAR T-cell Therapy for Ependymoma Funded by Swim Across America-Boston Launches Phase I Study

With early funding from Swim Across America-Boston, Dr. Bryan Choi’s research on tandem CAR T-cell therapy for ependymoma has been approved for a Phase I trial. The first human patient will be infused at the end of April 2023. 

Dr. Choi, a neurosurgeon and neuro-oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, presented an overview of his research path in an exclusive briefing to Swim Across America participants on Friday, April 14, 2023. He explained that he is particularly interested in finding nonsurgical, nonconventional means of treating solid tumor cancers like ependymoma, an aggressive solid tumor brain cancer that occurs most often in young children. 

CAR T-cell therapy, a type of gene therapy that engineers a patient’s own T-cells (a type of white blood cells) to identify and attack cancer cells by way of their antigen markers, has shown promise in the treatment of blood cancers. The research team created dual antigen-targeting tandem CAR T (TanCART) cells to target heterogeneous solid tumors. Dr. Choi’s research shows that this type of therapy can also be manipulated to treat solid tumors like ependymoma. 

At the suggestion of Dr. Howard Weinstein, Unit Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Mass General for Children and long-time Swim Across America partner, Dr. Choi applied for a Swim Across America research grant through the internal competitive bid program at Mass General for Children. 

Through Dr. Choi’s research, CAR T-cell therapy is now showing promise in treating solid tumor cancers like ependymoma – so much promise that it has been approved for a Phase I trial in human patients. 

Without the Swim Across America grant, Dr. Choi said, his research likely would have remained unfunded, and neither the FDA approval nor the Phase I Study approval, which is funded by industry investors, would have been possible.

Janel Jorgensen McArdle, Chief Operating Officer of Swim Across America, pointed out that Dr. Choi’s research falls in the “sweet spot” of the high risk, high reward research that Swim Across America is pursuing. “This promising research aligned perfectly with the opportunities that Swim Across America seeks to support. We are so excited that SAA funding could help accelerate it to patient trials.”

After his highly informative presentation, Dr. Choi and his lab colleagues gave us a private tour of their existing lab spaces, as well as their new expanded lab, which is in the finishing stages of build-out. 

It was an exciting visit for Swim Across America news and for all of the Swim Across America-Boston and Nantucket supporters who were present!

Swim Across America visitors: Michele Fox, Patty Gienke, Bob Hackett, Liam Hackett, Steven Laduzinski, Jamie Mannion, Janel Jorgensen McArdle, Alex Meyer, Rick Osterberg, Shep Perkins, Jill Roethke, Mike Ryan, Jessica Stokes, Kitty Tetreault.


Read or watch local stories featuring the Swim Across America-Florida Keys community to learn about their impact. Learn more about the event and beneficiary, Miami Cancer Institute, at

Swim Across America Blog –

Cancer Survivor Inspired to Help Establish SAA-Florida Keys Event

Keys Life Magazine



In the Water for Cancer Research





Read or watch local stories featuring the Swim Across America-Nashville community to learn about their impact. Learn more about the event and beneficiary, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, at

Swim Across America Blog –

Finding New Meaning in Swim Across America Participation

WTVF – Nashville Scripps (NewsChannel 5)

Swimmers unite during Swim Across America to raise money for local cancer research

Hundreds of Swimmers Aim to Raise $75,000 for a Noble Cause


April 16 Swim Across America Nashville Makes Waves to Fight Cancer


Breast Cancer Survivor Finds an Inspiring Way to Mark Two Milestones

Michelle Deaton
Swim Across America – Tampa
Hometown: Wesley Chapel, Florida
2 years supporting Swim Across America
Age: 50

Michelle Deaton has a lot to celebrate this year and she wanted to mark the occasion by doing something she had never done before.

“I turned 50 in March and I’m five years cancer free! What better way to celebrate than with a two-mile swim with Wyatt!”

Last year, Michelle was a proud supporter of her son, Wyatt, who swam 2 miles in the 2022 Swim Across America – Tampa event. He raised nearly $6,000 in her honor. This year, they are training – and raising funds – together. What makes their swim even more special is that the event falls on Mother’s Day weekend.

“I’m so excited that my mom is training to swim with me,” said Wyatt. “She keeps telling me she will swim faster than me and beat me back to the beach. I’m just proud that she is cancer-free, just celebrated her 50th birthday on March 26, and is going to be my swim partner for Swim Across America.”

Michelle is cancer-free but that doesn’t mean she will stop supporting Swim Across America. She is likely one of our most enthusiastic participants!

“I just love, love, love Swim Across America and all it stands for,” said Michelle Deaton. “I talk about the work that Swim Across America supports everywhere I go and to everyone. I’m Swim Across America’s biggest fan. I’m thrilled to be able to swim and be a part of such a great event that impacts the lives of so many. I’m a true believer that when you put your mind to something, it might not be easy, but I’m blessed as I have gone through something tough like a cancer diagnosis, and it made me realize even more how miraculous our bodies really are.”

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.

Finding New Meaning in Swim Across America Participation

Susan McPherson

Swim Across America – Nashville

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

6 years with Swim Across America

Age: 79

Susan McPherson was no stranger to Swim Across America, but her contributions were always in honor of other family members and friends who had cancer diagnoses. After a shocking diagnosis in December 2020, the reason to support Swim Across America-Nashville now became much more personal for Susan.

“I went to the doctor because I was experiencing new-onset shortness of breath and found out I was anemic. After additional tests, the doctors told me they found a large tumor and multiple metastases in my abdomen and that I had stage four colon cancer.”

Susan’s particular genetic profile made her a candidate for immunotherapy. She began treatment at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, which is the beneficiary of the Swim Across America-Nashville Pool Swim.

“In fact, the type of immunotherapy I was given – Keytruda – was developed in the Swim Across America funded lab at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center! What an incredibly serendipitous moment it was when I realized that the treatment that could help save my life was initially funded through Swim Across America fundraising events.”

Susan received treatment for two years and is now cancer-free. And her participation in this year’s Swim Across America – Nashville event is that much more poignant.

Susan’s daughter-in-law, Chris, is one of the event directors and coaches at the Ensworth Natatorium where the event is held. Her son, John, is a cardiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. For the second year, Chris and John will swim with their team “Chris’ Cancer Crushers” in their endeavor to “make waves to fight cancer.”

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.