#WHYISWIM for SAA in 2019

Swim Across America is highlighting our amazing participants and top fundraisers in 2019 and their inspiration for why they swim with SAA. If you are interested in sharing your #WhyISwim story with us, contact Allie.

Joyce Kelly – SAA – San Francisco

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Joyce Kelly participates in SAA – San Francisco and is currently the top fundraiser. Here’s why she does it: “My sister-in-law and I live far apart. Nearby family members have helper her tremendously with meal deliveries, birthdays, etc. but because of distance I cannot help in the same way. I wanted her to know I am with her in her struggle. I never swam 1.75 miles in the SF Bay before and yes it’s a challenge but nothing like the challenge Karen faces confronting her cancer. If everyone does what they can – a call, a meal, a donation – and yes train to swim from the Golden Gate to shore we all move step by step (or stroke by stroke) towards a cancer free future.”

Lisa Simon – SAA – Chicago

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Lisa has been involved with Swim Across America – Chicago since 2016 and is currently one of the top fundraisers for 2019! Here is why she swims: “In 2015, my dad passed away after a courageous and difficult battle with melanoma. Cancer is one of those diseases that will affect everyone at some point in their life. In 2016, I received an email for Swim Across America and thought this would be a great way for me to honor my dad. I joined Team Anne, Mike and Friends after a friend of mine introduced me. I swim in memory of my dad, Charles Simon. I swim in honor of family and friends who have battled and beat cancer. I swim for the young child to the adult who have battled cancer. I swim because we need to find a cure for cancer.”

Aaron Kwittken – SAA – Long Island Sound

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Aaron Kwittken has been involved with SAA – Long Island Sound since 2017. Aaron suffered from severe, chronic asthma and allergies as a kid and didn’t learn to swim until he was 11 years old after the doctor said it would help rebuild his lungs. He was a competitive swimmer in high school and began racing in Ironman-distance triathlons 10 years ago. He says, “I swam the SAA – Long Island Sound 5K with Team Mackey in 2018 and watched my friend and our team captain, Mike Kelly conquer the 10K. His feat inspired me to train for the 10K this year. I am swimming in memory of my friends Kate Foster and Dave Robb. I too am a cancer survivor (melanoma). Swimming saved my life so now I swim to help save others.”

Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO & Swim Across America Team Up to Create Young Investigator Award

Swim Across America is supporting the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation with the creation of the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO/Swim Across America Young Investigator Award (YIA). ASCO is the world’s leading professional organization for physicians and oncology professionals caring for people with cancer. As ASCO’s philanthropic affiliate, Conquer Cancer funds researchers exploring treatments for every type of cancer, for patients everywhere.

The Young Investigator Award funds the best and brightest early-career cancer researchers and represents our greatest hope for developing more promising cancer treatments. The Swim Across America YIA recipient will receive a $50,000 grant to support a year of research.

The award recipient will be named May 31 at the ASCO annual meeting in Chicago when Swim Across America will be acknowledged.

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New Swim Across America Fundraising Mobile App Launched

The Swim Across America mobile app is now available for download on your iOS or Android device! With this new app, you can:

  • Monitor your fundraising progress, and thank your donors for their support
  • Update your page with a personalized story and photo
  • Share your page using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or SMS
  • Send emails easily by importing your contacts list with just one click
  • And more!

Downloading the app on your phone or tablet takes less than a minute. Visit the App Store or Google Play Store to get started!

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Meet the Event Directors of SAA

Swim Across America is lucky to have many amazing leaders to organize and run our open water charity swims. These people are the heart and soul of our organization and we could not do this without them. Read more about each of them below.

Amy Maguire – SAA – Tampa

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Amy has been involved with Swim Across America for 2 years.  She started out as a sponsor and in 2017 was asked to be the event director for the Tampa Bay swim.  She lead her first SAA – Tampa Bay event in April 2018.  She says: “SAA’s focus solely on cancer was a great draw for me.  I was hooked when I began working with the National team and meeting the other event directors.  Everyone is committed and kind.  I have volunteered for thirty years for countless organizations and this team has expertise, focus, kindness and are willing to help in so many ways.  They are supportive.  I believe we can make a difference in cancer care and research.” Her favorite parts about SAA are seeing the swimmers come out of the water, hearing survivor stories and seeing the benefits of our donations.

Mark Barr – SAA – Houston

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Mark got involved with SAA last year and is the ED for one of our new swims this year in Houston. Mark is a cancer survivor, lifelong swimmer, Paralympian and Nurse. He says: “Getting involved with Swim Across America was an easy decision for me. I love SAA’s mission to help unite the community while raising funds for cancer research and clinical trials by hosting swimming events around the nation. Houston is home of the largest medical center in the world and also has a robust swimming community, which together has the potential to make a massive impact. SAA is unique in that it designates ahead of time which hospital and doctors will be the beneficiaries of the funds raised, and I like that swimmers and fundraisers will know exactly where their dollars are going.”

Michele Graham – SAA – Fairfield County

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Michele started working with SAA – Fairfield County (previously SAA – Greenwich-Stamford) as a volunteer in 2013 and became the ED in 2015! Michele’s SAA journey started after her daughter, Nicole, was diagnosed with ALL leukemia in 2012. Nicole’s journey was “particularly heartbreaking — cancer treatment leading to sepsis shock, 2 weeks in a medically induced coma during which she incurred strokes on both sides of her brain.” Nicole started her cancer journey a tri-varsity athlete and 30 days after being diagnosed, was in a paralyzed state. Once she had recovered and was in remission, Nicole was asked to be the honored speaker at the 2013 SAA – Greenwich-Stanford event. You can view her entire story here. After celebrating her 5-year cancer free in Oct. 2017, Nicole relapsed at the beginning of Jan 2018. She had a stem cell transplant on June 29, 1 week after she co-chaired the 2018 swim. Michele says “I knew my journey included doing something to help other cancer patients and families. No one should have to go through what Nicole and our family went through. When the call came in January of 2015 asking me to be the ED, I knew this was my destiny. I’m committed to seeing the end of cancer for everyone.”

Kitty Tetreault SAA – Boston & SAA Rhode Island

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Kitty has been involved with SAA from the very beginning, starting as a swimmer for a couple years and then transitioning over to an Event Director. She started because it was fun and had just had a baby and was looking to change things up a bit. Kitty has many great memories from SAA but says “the best part is getting to meet so many interesting people who are passionate about swimming, our cause and making a difference.”

Tony Sibio – SAA – Long Island Sound

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Tony got involved with SAA after his son, Daniel was diagnosed with stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma. His tumor was inoperable and the cancer spread to both lungs. Daniel was treated at NY Presbyterian Hospital, which is a beneficiary of SAA – Long Island Sound and is now in remission and him and his wife Liz have 2 beautiful girls Juliana & Isabel.  In 1992, Tony’s friend Frank Weber’s wife Kathy passed away from cancer and the Glanz brothers were starting a swim for SAA in her memory. Tony got involved then and says “now the rest is history.” His family and friends have participated over the years. His cousin Michael has been on the committee since 1995 and it is a great way to fight cancer and come together as a team. He says “we lost my cousin Debbie in 2015 to lung cancer. We need to continue our fight.” His favorite part about SAA is the “many, many friends I have made over the years. I enjoy working with everyone at National and with our Long Island Sound Committee, all the swimmers, donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries. Our goal is 100% cure rate!”

Swim Across America Awards $5.6 Million in Grants for 2019

Swim Across America is more than a swim, we are a cause and we are family. Volunteers and participants more than donate, they have created a culture that SAA offers empowerment and hope.

Because of our passionate and devoted SAA supporters, in 2018, SAA granted a record $5.6 million to beneficiaries in the communities of our charity swims (Click here to see the beneficiaries). Since our founding over three decades ago, we’ve granted over $80 million dollars that has led to new cancer cures in immunotherapy, breakthroughs in new screening and detection methods, and helped to pioneer personalized medicine.

Our calendar features 20 open water charity swims. You can view the calendar and register via this link. As we look to begin our 32nd year, 2019 will be guided by this theme: Hope has no finish line. This is more than a slogan for SAA, it is to honor the life of the “amazing” Grace Bunke who we lost in 2018 from osteosarcoma at the young age of 14. Grace’s last wish was to be the #1 fundraiser for SAA and challenged our community to continue raising funds that will help doctors give hope to families in the fight against cancer. Grace’s message inspires us to think bigger about our purpose.

Please accept our heartfelt thanks for your generosity. We look forward to seeing you in 2019 as we continue to #MakeWavesToFightCancer.

Best of 2018 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 Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Moffit Cancer Center

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SAA – Chicago at Rush University Medical Center

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SAA – Charlotte at Levine Cancer Institute

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SAA – Baltimore at Johns Hopkins Medicine

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SAA – Atlanta at Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta 

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SAA – Greenwich at Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy

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SAA – Nantucket at Nantucket Cottage Hospital 

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SAA – Seattle at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

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SAA – San Francisco at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital

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SAA – Denver at Children’s Hospital Colorado

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SAA Congratulate the Top Fundraisers of 2018

We are excited to recognize some extra special people – our Top Swim Across America Team and Individual Fundraisers of 2018. These people pushed their fundraising efforts to make the biggest waves in their communities when it comes to fighting cancer. 

Top 5 Fundraising Teams

5. Team Valerie – $141,287 (SAA – Long Island Sound)

The team surpassed their goal this year and raised $141,287 to fight cancer with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian and Cancer Support Team! Great job #MakingWaves in your community, Team Valerie!

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4. Team Amazing Grace + Take That Benedict – $155,722 (SAA – Atlanta)

Team Amazing Grace + Take That Benedict which raised $155,722 for Swim Across America – Atlanta benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The team was formed in honor of 2 sarcoma patients – Grace and Julie. One of the highlights of the SAA – Atlanta swim this year was Vicki Corte Bunke and Dr. Karen Wasilewski (pictured) swimming to honor Grace’s memory! #amazinggrace

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3. Team Julian – $169,731 (SAA – Greenwich-Stamford)

Team Julian from Swim Across America Greenwich-Stamford! The team took a big fundraising leap from last year and raised $169,731 for Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT)! Way to go, Team Julian!

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2. Team Susan Survives – $171,431 (SAA – San Francisco Bay)

Team Susan Survives from Swim Across America – San Francisco Bay! The team hit their record high raising $171,431 this year to support UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco! Team Susan Survives is captained by SAA – San Francisco’s very own Co-Event Director and cancer survivor Susan Helmrich! The team has raised over $768,000 to support cancer research and patient care since 2011!

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1. Team Stacey – $249,103 (SAA – Nassau-Suffolk)

Congratulations to our Top Fundraising Team of 2018: Team Stacey from Swim Across America – Nassau – Suffolk! The team raised $249,103 to support Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Feinstein Institute Northwell Health! Team Stacey celebrated its 10th Anniversary of participating in SAA – Sound to Cove this year and is the Top Fundraising Team for the second year in a row! The team was formed in memory of Stacey Rose Leondis and has raised over $1.1 million for cancer research, treatment, and prevention! Way to Make (BIG) Waves to Fight Cancer, Team Stacey!

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Top 5 Individual Fundraisers

5. Dan Benoit – $36,593 (SAA – Seattle)

Dan Benoit raised $36,593 for SAA – Seattle’s 10th Anniversary this year! Dan has been involved with Swim Across America – Seattle for 3 years after his son, Matt formed Team Benoit while undergoing treatments at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He has raised over $120,000 since 2016 to support immunotherapy clinical trials and cancer research Seattle Cancer Care Alliance! Way to #makewavestofightcancer, Dan!

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4. Steven Lurie – $39,107 (SAA – San Francisco Bay)

Our 4th Top Fundraiser of 2018: Steven Lurie from Swim Across America – San Francisco Bay! Steven participated in his first SAA- San Francisco Bay swim last year and was the #1 Fundraiser of 2017. He got involved after his son, Seth was diagnosed with a rare cancer at the age of three! Steven has raised over $90,000 in just two years to support UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital where his son was treated and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland!

Steven Lurie Top Fundraiser 2018

3. Mark McCooey – $52,830 (SAA – Long Island Sound)

Shoutout to our #3 Top Fundraiser: Mark McCooey from SAA – Long Island Sound! Mark raised $52,830 this year to support Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian and Cancer Support Team! Mark has been participating in SAA – Long Island Sound for the past 17 years as a part of Team Clare, named after his late cousin, Clare Reynolds. Team Clare has raised over $1M since its inception! Thanks for continuing to join us in this fight against cancer, Mark! We look forward to seeing you #makewavestofightcancer again next year!

Mark McCooey Top Fundraiser 2018

2. Tony Sibio – $101,917 (SAA – Long Island Sound)

Our #2 Top Fundraiser of 2018 is our very own SAA – Long Island Sound Event Director, Tony Sibio! Tony raised $101,917 this year to support Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian and Cancer Support Team! His family has been involved with SAA – Long Island Sound from the very beginning after his son was diagnosed with cancer and treated at New York-Presbyterian. Thank you for all that you do, Tony and way to go on being the second highest fundraiser this year!

Tony Sibio Top Fundraiser 2018

1. Grace Bunke – $119,579 (SAA – Atlanta)

We are honored to announce our #1 overall fundraiser of 2018 is ‘Amazing’ Grace Bunke of SAA – Atlanta. Grace’s fundraising totaled $119,579 this year benefiting Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she was treated. Grace Bunke was one of the top national fundraisers and SAA – Atlanta’s number one fundraiser in 2017. One of her final wishes was to be the top national fundraiser for Swim Across America in 2018. In completing this goal, she continues to inspire not only the Atlanta community but all of us at Swim Across America.

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