25 Years of SAA – Long Island Sound History

2017 will mark SAA – Long Island Sound’s 25th year raising money to fight cancer through research, as well as provide for those who are going through treatment. We give thanks to all of you who have partnered with us throughout the years to make this event such a success. Below is a compilation of all historical photos, videos and flyers. We hope you’ll join us again this year to celebrate our 25th Anniversary. All historical photo albums can be found here.











Research from SAA-Baltimore beneficiary Johns Hopkins recognized

When Johns Hopkins scientists Bert Vogelstein, Ken Kinzler, Luis Diaz and their colleagues linked certain cancers to mutations in genes that repair DNA, they may not have imagined that their findings would spark an idea that has become a crystal ball for predicting whether immunotherapy is more likely to work in a person with cancer. The $3 million in grant funding over the last decade from Swim Across America – Baltimore has played a major role in funding their idea of “mismatch repair” so more families can have hope.

Now, their work is being featured in the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Clinical Advances 2017 and you can read more about the accomplishments here and watch the patient perspective below.

Hard SAA Work Pays Off at Beneficiary Check Presentations

Swim Across America celebrated the end of the year across the country by presenting checks to our esteemed beneficiaries. Here is a collection of smiling faces as the hard fundraising work is now seeing its impact multiplied in the fight against cancer.

SAA – Tampa at Moffitt Cancer Center
SAA – Dallas at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center
SAA – Nantucket at Nantucket Cottage Hospital and Palliative and Support Care of Nantucket
SAA – Seattle at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
SAA – Baltimore at The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins


SAA $40,000 Grant is Leveraged into $1,000,000

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without Swim Across America funds.” Seattle Cancer Care Alliance physician and researcher, Dr. Venu Pillarisetty, takes us behind the scenes to understand exactly how SAA-Seattle funds make a difference.

Dr. Venu Pillarisetty is a surgical oncologist who not only cares for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patients but also dedicates his time to researching improved treatments for pancreatic cancer and other aggressive types of cancer. “My goal is to not have to operate,” he says, and “find something that’s lasting.” So when he began his research in 2009, SAA-Seattle was fundamental to his progress.

Dr. Pillarisetty’s initial work involved studying immune cells in human pancreatic cancer. As an early-stage researcher, he had limited startup funds provided by SCCA partners, University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. That’s why Dr. Pillarisetty was especially grateful to receive $40,000 from SAA-Seattle, which helped to fund the salary for his laboratory technician, Kendall Shibuya. Thanks to SAA-Seattle’s support, they worked together for three years conducting successful research. Ultimately, the work was published (http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0096565) and Kendall was admitted to medical school.

Early SAA funding truly jumpstarted Dr. Pillarisetty’s career, granting him the opportunity to do studies outside of his pancreatic specialty (Sarcoma, Colorectal, and Head & Neck cancers). “Being able to look at different tumor types helps you understand each one better,” he explains.

Today’s research is proving to be very promising, as Dr. Pillarisetty works to understand the interactions between immune cells and cancer cells. “Tumor slices” are kept alive and preserved within a culture, allowing researchers to test different therapies on a live tumor. Recently, combining immunotherapy treatments created a dramatically effective result, killing numerous cancer cells.

Because of his early work, Dr. Pillarisetty now has about $1 million in funding. This would not have been possible, he explains, without the help from SAA-Seattle. “To get a federally funded grant, you need to have done about half of the work that you proposed,” he says. This proposed work is impossible to complete without funding. So, SAA-Seattle intercepted a vicious cycle, making it possible for Dr. Pillarisetty to be awarded more funding and continue conducting groundbreaking research.

Scientists have countless good ideas; however, only a small portion of them (think less than 10%) lead to meaningful discoveries. Thanks to SAA-Seattle, one good idea was transformed into successful experimentation.

“It was absolutely essential to my research,” says Dr. Pillarisetty of SAA-Seattle’s support. “For a clinician scientist to be able to do cutting-edge, high-risk research there is no way to do it without outside funding.”

Supporting Promising Trials in Seattle

The following was shared by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

SAA – Seattle Volunteers and Participants visit the Swim Across America-Cellular Therapy Lab at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

In the past few years, immunotherapy has produced unprecedented breakthroughs in cancer research. SCCA’s Swim Across America Cell Therapy Laboratory (SAA-CTL) is at the leading edge of this work and SAA-Seattle funding has been critical in supporting the clinical trials that bring this research to patients. SAA-Seattle grants allow us to train technologists in the theory and practice of complex cell processing methods and helps provide sophisticated instrumentation required for these methods. An example of our SAA-Seattle funded research is the Chimeric Antigen T Cell Receptor (CAR T) immunotherapy, which involves selecting and genetically modifying certain lymphocytes to be able to recognize and kill tumor cells. In 2014, SAA-Seattle grants enabled us to initiate the first CAR T clinical trial at SCCA. This trial has produced remarkable results: the complete remission (CR) rate in refractory (unresponsive to other therapies) B Cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia was 94% and the CR rate in refractory Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was 64%. This profound success allowed additional patients to be treated, including 35 new patients in 2016. Three more trials using similar technology are beginning in 2017.

SAA-Seattle has played a vital role in supporting groundbreaking research at SCCA. Thanks to SAA-Seattle funding, we have become a center of excellence for selecting particular cells that contribute to an “anti-cancer” effect while removing the other cells (naïve T lymphocytes) that can cause graft vs host disease. This concept has been a sort of holy grail for the treatment of hematological malignancies (certain types of leukemia) through transplantation and trials supported by SAA-Seattle funds have shown extraordinary results. These naïve T cell depletion and CAR T study results have been published in top tier journals.

We hope you’ll join us this September 9th at the 2017 SAA – Seattle open water swim to ‘Make Waves to Fight Cancer.’

Team Suffolk Making Waves

The Team Suffolk Pool Swim to Fight Cancer just had another incredible year, raising almost $50,000. The swim started in 2011, and leaders have done a great job passing on the baton to keep this SAA – Nassau-Suffolk event growing. The Lennon Family has been taking the lead the past few years and  Kelly Lennon was recognized by the Huntington Town Board this year (see more below). Over the last 5 years Team Suffolk has raised more than $200,000.

Thanks to the Team Suffolk coaches (John and Frank) for embracing the event, supporting it and welcoming it as a chance for their community to come together and see their team show strength and support to family members or swimmers who might be battling cancer.

On Wednesday, Dec 7th Councilwoman Susan Berland and the Huntington Town Board presented Kelly Lennon with a proclamation for her efforts organizing Team Suffolk’s annual Swim Across America Pool Swim. Kelly has participated in each event, and was the team organizer the last two years. Kelly has personally raised over $35,000 for SAA. Kelly is an accomplished swimmer and will be attending SUNY Geneseo in the fall and swimming for Coach Paul Dotterweich and his BlueWave. Congrats Kelly!




bbb-accredited-charityCharlotte, NC – November 10, 2016 – By meeting key standards of board oversight, finances, results reporting and fundraising appeals, Swim Across America achieved accreditation by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. This accreditation signifies that Swim Across America is deserving of donor trust as they are a well-run nonprofit organization.

“Our relationship with our donors is rooted in trust,” commented Rob Butcher, CEO of Swim Across America. “We initiated the process with BBB Wise Giving Alliance and are pleased to share that we meet the standard of non-profit excellence. We are proud to earn the ability to display the BBB accreditation seal.”

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA) is the nation’s only comprehensive charity evaluator, assisting donors in making sound giving decisions. Donors know they can trust a charity if it is accredited by the BBB WGA. Their broad standards go beyond what the law requires and dives deeper than other charity monitoring organizations. Each BBB WGA charity report process involves a rigorous review using 20 holistic BBB Charity Standards, interaction with charity officials about corrective actions needed to address deficiencies, and quality control measures to assure report accuracy. Thousands of charities have reports available to the public at Give.org.

“The public can be assured that every charity evaluation is completed with careful, objective analysis of charity information,” says Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, “By achieving accreditation, Swim Across America has earned public trust having demonstrated its commitment to sound governance, transparency and achieving its mission.”

Swim Across America’s report can be viewed on the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website.