Nantucket Nurse Recalls “Pivotal Time” in Administering Hospital’s First Immunotherapy Treatment

Gretchen Hull
Swim Across America – Nantucket
Hometown: Nantucket, MA
10 years supporting Swim Across America
Age: 49

Gretchen Hull is a triple threat supporter of Swim Across America. She’s an oncology nurse and Director of Infusion Services at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, passionate about health and personal wellness, and a swimmer!

In Gretchen’s own words, “the mission of Swim Across America – Nantucket – to support cancer services and research – aligns perfectly with my professional and personal goals.”

Gretchen has worked at Nantucket Cottage Hospital since 2002 and has been involved with Swim Across America for over a decade. It wasn’t until 2014, when Keytruda, of which Swim Across America assisted funding research, first became available at NCH, that she truly felt the impact and miracle of groundbreaking immunotherapy research.

“When Keytruda became available in 2014 there were only two chemotherapy certified nurses at NCH. I was the first nurse at my facility to administer Keytruda for its first indication. I knew it was a pivotal time in cancer care.”

Gretchen watched how the introduction of immune therapy changed the course of patient’s lives and trajectory of cancer diagnosis from terminal to chronic and curative at times. Moreover, how immunotherapy redefined how we view cancer and how cancer treatments have expanded across multiple types of cancer and benefited millions of people.

“I have to emphasize to nurses beginning their practice after the dawn of immunotherapy exactly how groundbreaking it is. I use the term “miracle” when referring to some outcomes.”

This year, Gretchen will swim the 4-mile course at Swim Across America – Nantucket.

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.


Read or watch local stories featuring the Swim Across America-Tampa Bay community to learn about their impact. Learn more about the event and beneficiary, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, at

Swim Across America Blog –

Breast Cancer Survivor Finds an Inspiring Way to Mark Two Milestones

Suncoast News Network TV

Tampa mother and son swimming for cancer research

Spectrum 9 News TV

Tampa Breast Cancer Survivor Trains With Son for 2-Mile Swim

ABC Action News

Wesley Chapel mom, son plan to swim 2 miles to raise money for cancer research

Yahoo! Life

Mother, son join Swim Across America for cancer research

Tampa Beacon

Wesley Chapel mother-son duo to swim for cancer research

ABC Action News

Wesley Chapel mother and son swim for a cure

WFTS-TV Spot on Florida

(ABC Action News story) Wesley Chapel mother and son swim for a cure

WFTS-TV Spot on Florida (Video)

VIDEO: Wesley Chapel mother and son swim for a cure

WTSP-TV 10 Tampa Bay

Mother celebrates being cancer free by swimming at Swim Across America event with son

WTVT-TV FOX13 News at Noon

Wesley Chapel Cancer Survivor shares a special afternoon with her son

What’s in Your SAA College Ambassador Member Kit?

Swim Across America College Ambassadors are are part of the next generation of leaders. They support SAA by helping to engage the younger audience, promoting the Swim Across America mission and brand and encouraging their local communities’ involvement. Once you have been selected, we’ll reach out to congratulate you and send you an SAA College Ambassador’s Member Kit in the mail so you can show off your SAA spirit and be set up for success.

Here’s what you can expect in the mail:

1. Swim Across America Trucker Hat

Enjoy the exclusive Swim Across America College Ambassador’s Trucker Hat with our popular Wave logo. Perfect to throw on while enjoying time outside or walking to class.

2. Swim Across America Water Bottle

Stay hydrated and show your support with your new SAA branded water bottle.

3. Swim Across America Stickers & Buttons

Show your love on your car, laptop, backpack or jacket with the sticker and button we’ll be sending to help you spread the word about SAA!

4. Boost Your Fundraising Tips Sheet

Utilize these resources to help boost your fundraising and make a bigger impact!

Finding a Lifeline in the Swim Across America Community

Dalton Sousa
Swim Across America – Boston
Hometown: Carver, MA
5 years supporting Swim Across America
Age: 23

Dalton Sousa is no stranger to swimming or Swim Across America. He is a long-time supporter of Team Roethke at Swim Across America – Nantucket and swam with the Roger Williams University swim team at Swim Across America – Rhode Island.

“The mission to ‘End Cancer’ is something I have felt connected to for years. My hometown and many of my closest friends have been personally affected by cancer. I remember crying in class after hearing that one of my friends and classmates had passed away from cancer in 2015. He fought bravely at Dana-Farber Medical Center.”

It wasn’t until this year that he had an even more personal reason to dive in. In January 2023, Dalton’s mother, Toni, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“Now, Swim Across America is so much more than just a worthy cause for me. It has become a lifeline, a community of friends and family, who have rallied around a similar goal to end cancer.”

Dalton set out to raise funds in honor of his mom, who is being treated at Beth Israel Hospital-Plymouth. He created Team Sousa in January and in a few weeks, they raised over $11,000.

Toni’s spirits are high and it’s clear this tight-knit family is in the fight together and keeping a positive outlook.

“My mom has been one of the biggest influences on my life that has allowed me to be as successful as I have been. Swimming has been a huge part of my life. Whether it was as a swim parent, a New England official, or a fan my mom always tried to support everyone. She taught me to make the best out of difficult situations.”

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.

Breast Cancer Survivor Finds an Inspiring Way to Mark Two Milestones

Michelle Deaton
Swim Across America – Tampa
Hometown: Wesley Chapel, Florida
2 years supporting Swim Across America
Age: 50

Michelle Deaton has a lot to celebrate this year and she wanted to mark the occasion by doing something she had never done before.

“I turned 50 in March and I’m five years cancer free! What better way to celebrate than with a two-mile swim with Wyatt!”

Last year, Michelle was a proud supporter of her son, Wyatt, who swam 2 miles in the 2022 Swim Across America – Tampa event. He raised nearly $6,000 in her honor. This year, they are training – and raising funds – together. What makes their swim even more special is that the event falls on Mother’s Day weekend.

“I’m so excited that my mom is training to swim with me,” said Wyatt. “She keeps telling me she will swim faster than me and beat me back to the beach. I’m just proud that she is cancer-free, just celebrated her 50th birthday on March 26, and is going to be my swim partner for Swim Across America.”

Michelle is cancer-free but that doesn’t mean she will stop supporting Swim Across America. She is likely one of our most enthusiastic participants!

“I just love, love, love Swim Across America and all it stands for,” said Michelle Deaton. “I talk about the work that Swim Across America supports everywhere I go and to everyone. I’m Swim Across America’s biggest fan. I’m thrilled to be able to swim and be a part of such a great event that impacts the lives of so many. I’m a true believer that when you put your mind to something, it might not be easy, but I’m blessed as I have gone through something tough like a cancer diagnosis, and it made me realize even more how miraculous our bodies really are.”

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.

Finding New Meaning in Swim Across America Participation

Susan McPherson

Swim Across America – Nashville

Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee

6 years with Swim Across America

Age: 79

Susan McPherson was no stranger to Swim Across America, but her contributions were always in honor of other family members and friends who had cancer diagnoses. After a shocking diagnosis in December 2020, the reason to support Swim Across America-Nashville now became much more personal for Susan.

“I went to the doctor because I was experiencing new-onset shortness of breath and found out I was anemic. After additional tests, the doctors told me they found a large tumor and multiple metastases in my abdomen and that I had stage four colon cancer.”

Susan’s particular genetic profile made her a candidate for immunotherapy. She began treatment at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, which is the beneficiary of the Swim Across America-Nashville Pool Swim.

“In fact, the type of immunotherapy I was given – Keytruda – was developed in the Swim Across America funded lab at the Johns Hopkins Cancer Center! What an incredibly serendipitous moment it was when I realized that the treatment that could help save my life was initially funded through Swim Across America fundraising events.”

Susan received treatment for two years and is now cancer-free. And her participation in this year’s Swim Across America – Nashville event is that much more poignant.

Susan’s daughter-in-law, Chris, is one of the event directors and coaches at the Ensworth Natatorium where the event is held. Her son, John, is a cardiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. For the second year, Chris and John will swim with their team “Chris’ Cancer Crushers” in their endeavor to “make waves to fight cancer.”

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.

Young Teen Recognizes Swim Across America’s Impact Within His Home

Owen Johnson

Swim Across America – Charleston-Kiawah

Hometown: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

3 years supporting Swim Across America

Age: 13

Owen Johnson is just 13 years old, and he already recognizes the impact funds raised at a Swim Across America charity swim have on patients and families.

“My dad, Brad Johnson, was diagnosed with stage four head and neck cancer before I was born. He survived because of new medicines discovered by cancer researchers, like the ones funded by Swim Across America.”

In 2020, the then-11-year-old swimmer had the idea to give his dad an unforgettable Christmas present. Instead of exchanging gifts, Owen set up a GoFundMe in honor of his dad’s fight against cancer. Owen raised over $2,000 and since then, has raised another $4,000 through his participation in the Swim Across America – Charleston-Kiawah events.

“I know Swim Across America gives money directly to researchers. My dad was the Event Director for Swim Across America – Charleston-Kiawah for a few years, and Swim Across America gives grants to cancer researchers at Hollings Cancer Center in Charleston where we live.”

This year, Owen and Brad will swim together at the Swim Across America – Charleston-Kiawah event on June 10. They are also celebrating a remarkable milestone. Brad has been cancer-free for 20 years.

“To celebrate 20 years and all the things my dad has accomplished since beating cancer – Ironman events, marathons, Triathlon World Championships, having a family – we are teaming up to raise $20,000 for the 2023 Swim Across America – Charleston-Kiawah event.”

“I hope that by raising money for Swim Across America, donations will help researchers get the funding they need to help more people like my dad.”

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.

Cancer Survivor Inspired to Help Establish SAA-Florida Keys Event

Glenn Latham

Swim Across America – Florida Keys

Hometown: Islamorada, Florida

2 years supporting Swim Across America

Age: 68

“Both my parents, two of my three siblings, and I have all battled cancer. Fortunately, due to lots of prayer, family support and modern technology, I am in remission and celebrating 11 years cancer-free.”

And thanks to a chance meeting with a Swim Across America Board Member, Glenn and his wife, Susan, are now dedicated to bringing hope to families fighting cancer.

As a cancer survivor, Glenn was involved with different charities prior to moving to the Keys. Glenn’s love of swimming led to that chance encounter with a Board Member who shared the story of Swim Across America and our mission to fund innovative cancer research.

“My wife and I were immediately interested, and together we decided to organize the first SAA event in the Florida Keys. Our inaugural event in 2022 was a huge success, and the community involvement was amazing.”

The two Islamorada residents are Co-Event Directors for the second annual Swim Across America – Florida Keys event on April 15 benefitting Miami Cancer Institute.

“Being involved with Swim Across America has been a wonderful experience. I hope to continue to help with our own event and attend other swims. I believe we need to expand cancer research, and the funding that Swim Across America generates is of huge value.”

“It is particularly gratifying meeting and working with key members of the local medical research institution, Swim Across America staff, Olympians and local community supporters.” 

Swim Across America has raised $100 million since its inception in 1987 to support cancer research and clinical trials across the U.S. Please contact Jeni Howard at for media inquiries.

Ways to Support Swim Across America Now That Amazon Smile Program Has Ended

We appreciate that many of our supporters designated Swim Across America to receive proceeds from purchases made through the AmazonSmile program. Through AmazonSmile, Swim Across America has been able to cover a portion of what it takes to provide a safe and enjoyable charity swim experience.

Amazon announced that on February 20, 2023 they are discontinuing the Smile program for all charities. This means purchases made through Amazon will not support SAA or any other charities after February 20.

Swim Across America still needs your support. With AmazonSmile ending, there are a few ways to continue to give to Swim Across America:

  • Add an extra $10 when you register for or make a donation to a charity swim.

  • Swim Across America accepts Donor Advised Funds, stock donations, and annuities. Email us if you would like to include us in your planned giving.

Find a full list of options on our Ways to Give page.

Thanks for giving hope and Making Waves to Fight Cancer with us.

FDA Advisory Committee Supports Expanding Clinical Trial Swim Across America Has Helped Fund

An immunotherapy clinical trial that Swim Across America provided grant funding has reached another milestone.

The Dr. Luis Diaz Lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering began receiving grants from Swim Across America in 2017. SAA grant funding allowed Dr. Diaz and his colleague, Dr. Andrea Cercek, to meet patients and conduct immunotherapy research. With SAA grant support, the lab opened a clinical trial and recruited 14 patients with advanced rectal cancer. The patients qualified through genetic testing and were treated with a single dose of immunotherapy. The patients didn’t require surgery, chemo, or radiation–which was remarkable as traditional treatments often have a negative emotional, physical, and financial effect on the quality of life for patients and their families.

Dr. Luis Diaz and Dr. Andrea Cercek

All 14 patients responded with no evidence of disease. This is believed to be the first time a clinical trial has shown a 100% response rate. Read the full story here.

Recently, the FDA Advisory Committee supported expanding the clinical trial to more patients based on the data from the trial.

The Diaz/Cercek lab has focused on rectal cancer where standard treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. While these treatments might save a patient, they have significant quality-of-life effects and often present the need for ongoing care.

This trial is genetically dependent and focused on advanced rectal cancer. Dr. Diaz and Dr. Cercek envision the immunotherapy being offered to patients with other cancer types who meet the genetic profile. Proceeds from the Long Island Sound and Nassau/Suffolk – Sound to Cove charity swims continue to help fund the ongoing research and clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

Swim Across America has a proven track record of identifying and funding early-stage ideas of promise. Swim Across America grants have played a major role in clinically developing FDA-approved immunotherapy treatments ipilimumab (YERVOY), nivolumab (OPDIVO), pembrolizumab (KEYTRUDA), and atezolizumab (TECENTRIQ).