Swim Across America Grant Helps to Fully Fund a Pediatric AML Clinical Trial at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center

In 2017, Swim Across America made a commitment to grant $1M from its Swim Across America—Atlanta charity swim to fund a pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML) clinical trial at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The total cost of the trial is $2M.

We are pleased to share that the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Touchdowns for Children’s (T4C) program has dedicated 2018-2019 funds raised so that the trial is fully funded. T4C allows fans to support the patients cared for at the Aflac Cancer Center, while also cheering on their favorite college football team. Fans have the chance to help pediatric cancer and blood disorders patients by pledging as little as $1 for every touchdown scored by their favorite team during the 12-game season. The program is inspired by Anna Charles Hollis. Anna was a brave patient at the Aflac Cancer Center who courageously battled AML for six months before passing away.

According to the America Society of Clinical Oncology, leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, and AML is the second most common form of leukemia in children. According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation, only 4% or an estimated $198M of federal government funding goes to study pediatric cancer research.

Swim Across America’s belief in the promise of the clinical trial led by Dr. Doug Graham and Dr. Deb DeRyckere, provided SAA the confidence to grant $1M to the Aflac Cancer Center. We knew additional funding from the philanthropic community would be needed so the trial could continue, and we were pleased to champion for the additional funds and are excited to partner with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Touchdowns for Children’s Program.

We thank our supporters and will keep you updated on the progress of the trial.968513_FND_T4C_logo_FINAL.jpg

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#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.

Beverly Andrews – SAA – Charlotte

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Meet Beverly Andrews who participates in SAA – Charlotte. Here is why Beverly got involved with Swim Across America: “I was born a water baby. My mom enrolled me in infant swim classes, next were swim lessons and neighborhood summer league and later in elementary school I joined the Mecklenburg Aquatic Center to swim year-round. I swam in high school and walked onto Clemson University swim team. I have always loved swimming.” Beverly got her daughters involved in neighborhood swim team which is where she met our very own CEO Rob Butcher. She says, “In 2014, my father-in-law, Chris Andrews, was diagnosed with AML M5 Leukemia. He was treated at Levine Cancer Institute by Dr. Michael Grunwald, who became more than just a doctor and is now a family friend. In 2016, Chris lost his fight against leukemia. Our family will never be the same. I swim in memory of Chris. I swim to support leukemia research at Levine Cancer Institute, doing something I love.”

Pat Harrington – SAA – Houston (MAC Pool Swim)

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Pat Harrington participated in SAA – Houston’s first pool swim of the year – MAC Against Cancer. Here is why Pat swims: “Swimming is “physical meditation” to me.  Moving through the water immediately puts me in “the zone” for the balance of the day.  Once I moved through college swimming, a ten year break, then into Master’s and attended my first Masters Nationals in Fort Lauderdale I was hooked.  While watching the age category of 95 to 100 year olds race backstroke (my best event) I was truly inspired to continue Master’s swimming forever. I first discovered SAA when my coach (the Hall of Famer Richard Quick) passed away from cancer in 2009 and I participated in his honor.  In early 2016 I was diagnosed with cancer and went through the “full meal deal” of chemo, surgery and radiation while continuing to swim.  Whenever I was able to get in the water, all my concerns and fears melted away. The fellowship, competition and comradery lifted me up and kept me positive and persistent. It still lifts me to this day and I am so grateful and blessed to have this world to play in.”

Kelly Walsh – SAA – Baltimore

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Kelly Walsh is a top fundraiser in SAA – Baltimore right now. Here is why Kelly swims with SAA: “I was the one in eight – one in eight women who would get breast cancer. I never thought it would be me, no one ever does. But if cancer doesn’t affect us, it affects someone we care about. For me, it was one grandfather, one grandmother, five aunts and uncles, a cousin, myself and my husband. Last year, I swam for an aunt who was battling cancer for the fourth time. She passed away the weekend of the swim. This year, I swim for another aunt who is battling cancer for the second time. I swim for the every one in two men and every one in three women who will be diagnosed with cancer. And I swim for all our friends and family who are fighters, survivors and angels. I swim because they are our family and friends, not just statistics. With Swim Across America, I hope we can change some of those numbers.”

Candace Hendra – SAA – San Francisco

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Candace Hendra has participated in multiple SAA events including: SAA – San Francisco, SAA – Atlanta and SAA – Chicago. Here is why Candace swims: “I have been associated with SAA since 2007….In 2006 I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer–my pledge to myself was to recover and give back and found SAA to be the perfect fit. I have completed multiple SAA events in SF Bay both as a swimming participant and as a volunteer swim angel. I also did the swim in Chicago(2010) and Atlanta(2017)–my plan is to do the Detroit swim this year—I am a native Detroiter. I was diagnosed with Salivary gland cancer in 2017–Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. I swam throughout treatment with both episodes. I do the swim to give thanks and gratitude that I am still alive—-swimming and the daily feel of the water is a reminder of life and the need to move through it.”

Tori Kirkman – SAA – Tampa Bay

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Tori started swimming in high school and fell in love with the sport. After college, she joined an awesome team who introduced her to open water racing. She is new to the SAA community and said “Last year, I was walking by North Shore Park in St Pete and stumbled upon a race. That’s where I first learned about Swim Across America, and I vowed to myself I’d sign up next year.” She has many friends and family members who have been touched by cancer including her cousin, mom, boyfriend’s father and the list goes on. Tori also was a member of the Colleges Against Cancer, Biomedical Engineering Society where most of her research papers centered around emerging cancer treatment studies. Tori says “With Swim Across America, I can combine my love for the sport with my dream of us living in a world where fewer people are impacted by cancer, and those who are have cures available to them. Every dollar raised brings us closer to prevention, detection, treatments, and cures. I am trying to make a positive impact, and that is why I swim.”

Peter Carlson – SAA – Fairfield County

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Peter Carlson is one of the top fundraisers for SAA – Fairfield County right now and here is why Peter swims: “I swim because I know that by swimming, I can get many others involved in this cause that would not normally be involved in it. The cause is so important to all of us. I swim to raise money for cancer research. I swim in memory of and in honor of my many friends and family members who have been affected by cancer.” Peter raised over $32,500 last year for cancer gene therapy research through Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT)!

Stephen Brown – SAA – Charlotte

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Stephen Brown is the leading fundraiser for SAA – Charlotte. He has participated in the swim since it started 3 years ago and is co-captain for MSA Team Out My Box. Stephen is swimming in memory and honor of many friends. One of those friends, BJ Correll is a true inspiration for Stephen. He says, “In Dec 2015 I had the honor to meet BJ and make his life long dream come true to be a Navy SEAL by presenting him with a certificate from SEAL Team 8 naming him a honorary SEAL. BJ Correll fought the bravest and most courageous 3 1/2 year fight against aggressive acute lymphoblastic leukemia with grace and unwavering faith in God. He epitomized bravery and courage in the face of adversity. He never complained. His smile and the sparkle in his eyes remained throughout his fight. He was a true warrior. This year our MSA family has three teammates that are dealing with Cancer in their personal life. We are doing everything in our MSA family to be there for them. We are MSA Strong.”

Tiffani Panek – SAA – Baltimore

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Tiffani has been participating in SAA – Baltimore since 2016 and is currently one of the top fundraisers for 2019. Tiffani says: “I swim in memory of so many of my friends and family I’ve lost and those that are still fighting. I joined in 2016 as part of Team Bayview even though I’d never done an open water swim before and was terrified. But if they could go through cancer, then I could do this. It was an incredible experience and I continue to swim every year for the day when cancer is a thing of the past.”

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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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.

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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