We are Swimmers, we are Friends, we are Families…We are TEAM HOPE.
WE ARE SWIMMERS…
Mike Ford was your typical Swim Across America participant in 2000, when he swam with his daughter Keira in the Long Island Sound event as part of Team Doyle to support a family friend dealing with cancer.
After participating a few years in both the Long Island Sound and Sound to Cove swims, in 2004 Ford’s mission changed when three close friends were stricken with cancer. He was inspired to do more and created TEAM HOPE.
Nothing about Mike Ford’s Swim Across America story has been typical since then. Ford has kept the TEAM HOPE’s singular mission of fighting cancer focused and organized through the peaks and valleys over the last 13 years, and there have been plenty of both. TEAM HOPE has persevered to recruit and fundraise in larger numbers and will celebrate hitting the $1 million milestone as a team at the Sound to Cove benefit swim this week.
WE ARE FRIENDS…
The original core of TEAM HOPE members were North Hempstead Country Club members and staff, originally made up of 28 swimmers plus kayakers and volunteers. With North Hempstead as their unofficial home, they participated in the NCAC pool swim and the Sound to Cove open water swim and raised $30,000.
Over the years, some traditions have emerged that make TEAM HOPE special: the annual dedication board with its inspirational messages, the plaque that goes to the outstanding team member annually and of course, the large amounts of pasta that have evolved into club-wide barbecues.
In 2014, the ‘unofficial home’ of TEAM HOPE, North Hempstead Country Club, officially became the third swim to become a part of the family. Now TEAM HOPE participates in three swims annually and is fundraising more than ever.
As TEAM HOPE has grown, Ford has been inspired by the hundreds of swimmers, the generosity of thousands of donors and the countless hours given by the volunteers.
Ford is quick to point out TEAM HOPE wouldn’t be where it is today without the dedication of Laureen Keenan. He credits Keenan for assisting him tirelessly over the years, helping him stay organized with all volunteers and ultimately taking TEAM HOPE to greater heights.
WE ARE FAMILY…
TEAM HOPE emphasizes family participation. This year, of the 92 team swimmers, 59 are participating with another family member. Ford is particularly proud of the year that three generations of swimmers from one family swam together. TEAM HOPE is family.
In fall 2005, Ford was sadly struck by a cruel irony when his wife Patti was diagnosed with cancer. The fight against cancer became very personal. Over the ensuing decade, Ford continued pushing TEAM HOPE forward as Patti faced her own struggle against cancer until her heartbreaking passing this year. The $1 million milestone is more than just a number for Mike, his daughter Keira and TEAM HOPE.
WE ARE TEAM HOPE…
As can be imagined, the $1 million fundraising milestone hasn’t been accomplished without many poignant moments. Ford continues to swim with TEAM HOPE and has adopted the custom of inscribing his swim cap with those he swims for.
Despite the bittersweet start to the year, there are signs that HOPE springs eternal. The timing of the $1 million milestone serendipitously occurs during North Hempstead Country Club’s centennial celebration. The breakthroughs in immunotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering (a TEAM HOPE beneficiary) are making national news. It’s easy to see how Ford easily finds inspiration by those that have surrounded TEAM HOPE:
- His friend that courageously battled cancer and returned to swim with TEAM HOPE and regards the annual swim as his “most important day of the summer”
- Father Rich Henning, the “Paddling Padre” that penned the TEAM HOPE Prayer and kayaked for a number of years
- The 8-year-old that asked in lieu of gifts and presents for his birthday and his First Communion, that donations be made to TEAM HOPE and raised over $850 that year
- The lifeguard that participated in two NHCC pool swims and was proud to tell Ford she has an internship in Oncology as she finishes her nursing school degree
As TEAM HOPE gets to over 90 members this year and hits the million dollar mark, we appreciate and recognize the commitment to the cause by Mike Ford and his incredible team. There are a million reasons to believe that this is only the beginning.
If you are moved to help Mike Ford and TEAM HOPE reach $1 million raised this year, you can contribute here.