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


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


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


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


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!”

Jill Roethke – SAA – Nantucket


Jill has been involved with Swim Across America since 2012, when she was a team captain and swam the 1-mile during the special SAA – Nantucket 25th anniversary swim. She has been a competitive swimmer all her life and comes from a family of swimmers but got involved after her husband had been diagnosed with cancer. Jill became a Co-Event Director alongside Jim Pignato in 2013, after she convinced SAA to bring back the annual swim. Her favorite part about SAA is “making a tangible difference in our community, being a part of something bigger as a part of the Swim Across America family and the friendships that have evolved directly as a result of SAA both locally and nationally.” She also says, “One of my favorite memories is being on the support boat while Grant Wentworth raised over $150,000 for SAA-Nantucket while swimming from Cape Cod to Nantucket.”

Nicole Vanderpoel – SAA – Denver

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Nicole Vanderpoel was the Event Director for the inaugural SAA – Denver swim in 2018. Nicole learned of SAA through her friend Sheri Hart who was involved with SAA – Atlanta. Nicole had a passion for swimming and helping all to live a better life. She also has many friends and family who have suffered with cancer and she wanted to make a difference and help fight cancer locally in Colorado! She says “I felt there is so much passion in Colorado for swimming and fighting cancer that we could truly make this happen and make It magical.” Her favorite SAA – Denver memory thus far was her “involvement with Children’s Hospital Colorado and Patient Ambassadors” and “watching the swimmers come out of the water after they achieved their goals in swimming knowing they are helping to fight cancer.”

Scott Whelan – SAA – Seattle


Scott has been involved with Swim Across America for 10 years now. He got involved because he “enjoys every aspect of the swimming community and really wanted to find a way to defeat this ugly disease called cancer.” Scott’s favorite part of SAA events is “high-fiving and shaking hands with swimmers and watching the expression of deep accomplishment as they exit the water.”

Leslie Lucas – SAA – Dallas


Leslie Lucas is the Co-Event Director for SAA – Dallas and has been involved with SAA since she first swam in the Dallas event in 2012! Leslie switched over to the Event Director role in 2016! She got involved with SAA originally as a way for her and her three sons to honor her father who passed away from lung cancer in 2010. Her family kept participating annually because they found the event to be “such a fulfilling way to honor other friends and family members that were cancer warriors.” She says “the more I learned about SAA, the more passionate I became about the organization’s mission. SAA fills a void as we find the most promising phase 1 research that often isn’t supported by the government or big drug companies.” Leslie’s favorite part about SAA is “watching people feel empowered and energized by doing something tangible to fight this disease that often leaves us feeling helpless is so rewarding.”

Alison Milsapps – SAA – Atlanta


Alison is a Co-Event Director for Atlanta this year but has been a part of the swim since its inception in 2013! She first got involved as the captain of Team Accenture, who is one of the presenting sponsors for SAA Atlanta and spent the first few SAA years organizing and rallying the Accenture swimmers and volunteers. She said “I really loved getting to know SAA as an organization and the people that are involved, so I took on a larger role in my personal time as part of the SAA core committee and have been the land and water volunteer coordinator since 2017. I am beyond thrilled to expand my role even further in 2019 and cannot wait for a fantastic event!”

Susan Helmrich – SAA – San Francisco


SAA – San Francisco Co-Event Director Susan Helmrich has been involved with the swim for 13 years and has held her role as Co-Event Director for 12 of those years. Susan had always heard about SAA and was told numerous times It was and event she should get involved with but it didn’t exist in California until 2006. That’s when Susan met Janel and was instantly hooked on SAA. Susan swam her first SAA event in 2007 and switched over to co-event director in 2008. Susan has many favorite parts about SAA but said “Mostly, I just love the people who are involved. We say It is the SAA family…and It really is!”

Annie Applegarth – SAA – Baltimore


Annie Applegarth who will be celebrating her 10th year being apart of SAA – Baltimore this year. Annie got involved with SAA after her friend Betsy (who was the first year chair for SAA – Baltimore) discovered she was a 5 year cancer survivor and also managed large events, asked her to help with SAA. In her first year, Annie managed hospitality (tents, chairs, food, etc.). She also learned to swim and created a team of new swimmers called “Millie’s Mermaids.” Annie’s favorite part about Swim Across America is “teaching and coaching new swimmers for our events. I love watching them come into shore for their first swim. They continue to swim and raise money, but their stories are amazing and learning what brings them to the swim is heart warming and inspiring.”

Mary McCullagh – SAA – Charlotte

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SAA National’s own and SAA – Charlotte Event Director Mary McCullagh started volunteering in 1989 when her then friend, turned husband Mark McCullagh, who was also her teammate on the Boston College swim team, saw a feature on PBS about Jeff Keith’s Run Across America and the first LIS swim. Mark’s family had a house on Craigville Beach – very close to Nantucket – and he thought it would make a great venue for a big swim. They connected with Jeff and Matt, rallied their BC/NY/CT swimmers and friends and organized the first swim in the Nantucket area. From there Mary served as one of the early Executive Directors, continued to help manage some of the first SAA swims and then left to raise her family. She got back involved with SAA in 2016 when our CEO Rob Butcher opened the national office in Charlotte. Mary’s favorite memory so far was “helping to build the Chicago swim and the Nantucket Sound crossings from scratch.”

Jenna Stevenson – SAA – Houston

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Meet Jenna Stevenson who is a Co-Event Director for SAA – Houston. Jenna got introduced to SAA in 2013 in Dallas, TX. Since then she has been involved with SAA – Dallas, SAA – Atlanta, the inaugural SAA – Denver and now is the co-event Director for SAA – Houston. Jenna said ”SAA hits close to home for me as I have had many people in my life diagnosed with cancer. I am fortunate to say that because of the top of the line care they received and the research that has been done, many of my family and friends are survivors.”

Brad Johnson – SAA – Charleston-Kiawah

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Brad got involved with SAA – Charleston-Kiawah in 2016 when he was the team captain for the open water swim clinic. He was then asked to be event director in 2017 for the first official SAA – Charleston-Kiawah Open Water Swim. His favorite part about SAA is “absolutely split between the impact each dollar has in the fight and working with the team at SAA. As a late-stage cancer survivor and clinical study patient, I do not feel I will ever reach a point where my giving back has been completed. Others gave so I could fight and win. We give so others can fight and have the opportunity to win. That is always #1. Working with the team at SAA is truly a blessing in and of itself. Dedicated, passionate, giving and just plain old good people.”

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



SAA – Chicago at Rush University Medical Center


SAA – Charlotte at Levine Cancer Institute


SAA – Baltimore at Johns Hopkins Medicine


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


SAA – Greenwich at Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy


SAA – Nantucket at Nantucket Cottage Hospital 


SAA – Seattle at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance


SAA – San Francisco at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital


SAA – Denver at Children’s Hospital Colorado



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Community service is one of the best ways for college swim programs to build team chemistry and goodwill with their university. In 2018, more than 30 college programs volunteered their time by participating in a Swim Across America charity swim.

Swim Across America’s slogan is #MakingWavesToFightCancer and it does so by hosting open water charity swims. Since it’s founding in 1987, SAAs charity swim program has granted over $80 million to its mission of funding cancer research and clinical trials.

“364 days a year we compete with each other,” said Providence College head coach John O’Neill at the Swim Across America—Rhode Island charity swim. “But today, we all wear the same swim cap. We’ve all been touched by cancer and we swim in honor of survivors and those we’ve lost so that others may have hope.” John was awarded the College Swim Coaches Association of America community service award in 2016 for his support of Swim Across America.

The college programs that participated and volunteered at an SAA charity swim include Assumption College, Boston University, Bryant University, Brown University, Cal Catawba College, College of Holy Cross, Colorado School of Mines, East Carolina University, Emory, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Loyola University, Maryville University, McKendree University, Northeastern University, Penn State, Providence College, Queens University, Roger Williams University, Seattle University, SMU, St. Louis University, TCU, Truman State, Tufts University, University of California, University of Connecticut, University of Georgia, University of Idaho, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Missouri, University of Missouri – St. Louis, University of North Texas, University of Texas, Ursuline College, Villanova and Wesleyan University.

The 2019 Swim Across America calendar will include charity swims in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charleston-Kiawah, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Denver, Fairfield County (CT), Houston, Long Island, Nantucket, Nassau (NY), Richmond, Rhode Island, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Tampa.

Olympian Craig Beardsley heads up Swim Across America’s college program. He can be reached at to learn more.


SAA Family Tree is a monthly focus on stories that display the impact all the members of the Swim Across America family have both locally and nationally. If you have a story or link you’d like to share, please send here.


SAA – Charleston-Kiawah

  • Event Director Brad Johnson promoted our 2nd annual swim on Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

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SAA – Seattle

SAA – Atlanta

  • This 11Alive Recap of the Atlanta swim and ‘Amazing’ Grace Bunke’s legacy at the swim is a fitting tribute: “Hope has no finish line.”Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 2.30.26 PM

SAA – Baltimore

SAA – Charlotte

  • SAA CEO Rob Butcher donned the wetsuit on WCCB News Rising.Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 2.22.01 PM
  • SAA Director of Marketing Ryan Baucom and Dr. Edward Copelan of Levine Cancer Institute talked all things SAA on Charlotte Today.38280536_2204571959556269_4391243862727720960_n

SAA – Richmond

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TEAM STACEY will be swimming together and fundraising for the 10th year in 2018 at SAA-Sound to Cove in memory of Stacey Rose Leondis. This year, TEAM STACEY will pass the $1 million fundraising mark as a team in addition to being the top overall fundraising team across the country in 2017.


According to family, Stacey was a beautiful, smart and exuberant young woman.  Stacey was diagnosed with osteosarcoma when she was 16 years old and passed away at the young age of 23.  During those seven years, she graduated high school, graduated Yale University and was accepted to Mount Sinai medical school.

Ellen Leondis, Stacey’s mother, on the impact SAA has had: “Being part of the SAA family has allowed us to continue Stacey’s fight for a cure and celebrate her inspirational life.”

Pam Danbusky, a Nassau-Suffolk Committee member shared her memory of Stacey and why she swims: “I swim for Stacey Rose.  Someone I wanted to be like, someone younger who I looked up to, someone who I wish was still here.  If we were all more like Stacey the world would be a better place.  I swim to keep her legacy and beauty alive in this world.”

Swim Across America salutes TEAM STACEY for all their hard work fundraising in her memory and look forward to celebrating the next $1 million raised and the impact it will have! You can donate to TEAM STACEY today to help fight this dreaded disease.


Best of #SAASwimOutlet – 2018

All summer, we’re offering an exciting opportunity to show your love for SAA and win a $100 gift card. Enter by tagging @saaswim and @swimoutlet in your photo from your swim and add the hashtag #SAASwimOutlet to the caption and we’ll pick the best one. Grab your friends and family and show us the best the SAA community has to offer like these winners!

SAA – Tampa


SAA – Greenwich-Stamford


SAA – Boston


SAA – Chicago


SAA – Long Island Sound


SAA – Charleston-Kiawah


SAA – Nantucket


SAA – St. Louis


SAA – Denver


SAA – Rhode Island


SAA – Seattle


SAA – Charlotte


SAA – Baltimore


SAA – San Francisco


SAA – Dallas


SAA – Atlanta


SAA – Richmond