The 8th annual Value Based Cancer Care Summit brought together more than 300 thought leaders in academic, government, pharmaceutical and biotech. Change and innovation are happening at a fast pace in the field of healthcare and especially oncology. The purpose of the two-day summit was to create an active dialogue among the stakeholders in oncology care that ultimately will improve the quality of patient care.
Swim Across America, which has granted over $80 million dollars into cancer research, clinical trials and prevention, was selected as the beneficiary for the summit. Several of the oncologists shared during panel discussions the importance of Swim Across America’s early stage grant funding and how SAA’s funding has helped lead to breakthroughs and FDA approvals of new immunotherapy treatments.
In a personal testimonial, Dr. Jedd Wolchok of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center eloquently shared that SAA grant funding has helped numerous young investigators move forward their research ideas, many of whom are immigrants and are the pioneers in immunotherapy and personalized medicine.
Olympian and SAA ambassador Rowdy Gaines attended the summit giving a keynote talk about the 1980 Olympic boycott and how he persevered against the odds to win three gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games. Rowdy also shared how cancer has touched his life, losing his stepfather and sister to the disease.
The evening reception was attended by the Swim Across America Board of Directors, Olympians Steve Lundquist and Craig Beardsley, and the leaders from our SAA-Long Island Sound and SAA-Fairfield County charity swims. The reception was dedicated to Swim Across America as we shared stories from survivors, volunteers, and participants.
It was an honor for Swim Across America contributions to be recognized and it was meaningful to be part of these important discussions as we strengthened our relationships and lifted our goodwill.
Each of our events has their own unique “voice.” But there are some commonalities across all of them and we think this is what your average one would sound like…
SOMEONE GET ME A COFFEE.
I love you guys, but I won’t be functioning without coffee at this hour.
Dash of cream. One sugar. Thank goodness for caffeine!
OOOOOKay. So. Picnic tables, banners, shells and sharpies, breakfast, Balance Bars, signs in the sand, buoys, caps, registration forms, towels, clipboards, Chobanis, wetsuits, waivers, kayaks, DJ, t-shirts, flags to the start, I have to be forgetting something…
If you ask me, setup is something I almost wish our participants could all be a part of as well. It’s pitch black, and all these people are volunteering their time to lug bins full of swag and supplies onto the beach. It’s camaraderie between strangers that starts before the sun rises, and it’s what sets the tone for the rest of the event. The only pall on these amazing mornings is what’s uniting everyone.
But that’s another great thing, though. People who come to me? They know why they’re here. Cancer isn’t simply something we remember on event day- it’s ever-present. And look at how many smiles, smiles there are here. My participants are powerful in the presence of the ever-present, and that’s why there’s a day on the horizon in which we won’t have to smile in spite of it anymore. That’s what I’m here working towards.
Oh. My. Goodness. There is an eight year old child here that is determined to swim the half mile alongside her mother.
Excuse me while I tear up behind the DJ’s speakers.
Speaking of which, DJ, can I request a song? A little vintage “Eye of the Tiger” might be in order to get this party bumpin’ by 8am. (But no Black Eyed Peas- so 2000 and late.)
Once things get rolling here, I love that they kind of don’t slow down. My favorite part of my swim is when participants run out of the water under my arches. It’s the culmination of a morning, but also the culmination of months of preparation from both staff and participants alike. Swimmers that were previously strangers share high fives and become family. You’d be hard pressed to find anything other than a smile on every face on that beach. Under those arches, we find the core of SAA: family, hard work and positivity, all on the road to a cure.
Okay people, time for the group picture. Look at everybody in their new shirts, lookin’ so flyyyy! Squeeze together, people, squeeze! We’re all in this together!
(Were truer words ever spoke?)