Hard SAA Work Pays Off at 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.

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SAA – Tampa at Moffitt Cancer Center
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SAA – Dallas at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center
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SAA – Nantucket at Nantucket Cottage Hospital and Palliative and Support Care of Nantucket
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SAA – Seattle at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
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SAA – Baltimore at The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins

 

Supporting Promising Trials in Seattle

The following was shared by Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

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SAA – Seattle Volunteers and Participants visit the Swim Across America-Cellular Therapy Lab at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

In the past few years, immunotherapy has produced unprecedented breakthroughs in cancer research. SCCA’s Swim Across America Cell Therapy Laboratory (SAA-CTL) is at the leading edge of this work and SAA-Seattle funding has been critical in supporting the clinical trials that bring this research to patients. SAA-Seattle grants allow us to train technologists in the theory and practice of complex cell processing methods and helps provide sophisticated instrumentation required for these methods. An example of our SAA-Seattle funded research is the Chimeric Antigen T Cell Receptor (CAR T) immunotherapy, which involves selecting and genetically modifying certain lymphocytes to be able to recognize and kill tumor cells. In 2014, SAA-Seattle grants enabled us to initiate the first CAR T clinical trial at SCCA. This trial has produced remarkable results: the complete remission (CR) rate in refractory (unresponsive to other therapies) B Cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia was 94% and the CR rate in refractory Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was 64%. This profound success allowed additional patients to be treated, including 35 new patients in 2016. Three more trials using similar technology are beginning in 2017.

SAA-Seattle has played a vital role in supporting groundbreaking research at SCCA. Thanks to SAA-Seattle funding, we have become a center of excellence for selecting particular cells that contribute to an “anti-cancer” effect while removing the other cells (naïve T lymphocytes) that can cause graft vs host disease. This concept has been a sort of holy grail for the treatment of hematological malignancies (certain types of leukemia) through transplantation and trials supported by SAA-Seattle funds have shown extraordinary results. These naïve T cell depletion and CAR T study results have been published in top tier journals.

We hope you’ll join us this September 9th at the 2017 SAA – Seattle open water swim to ‘Make Waves to Fight Cancer.’

WOW! What a Year!

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Happy Halloween! While we at SAA were coming up with costume ideas this week, we also ran the numbers on our open water events for 2013. What we found were some frighteningly exciting statistics! Here’s a recap of our open water events for the season- they’re no trick, and certainly a treat!

Two NEW Swim Across America Labs!

Both our Dallas and Seattle swims hit the $1 million mark for fundraising this year, which is amazing! The Innovative Clinical Trials Center at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center was renamed the Swim Across America Innovative Clinical Trials Center after hitting $1 million in giving. In only its third year, SAA Dallas continues to break records and make waves.

Over on the west coast, SAA Seattle also hit the $1 million fundraising mark and was recognized by beneficiary Seattle Cancer Care Alliance by naming their lab for us. This is the fifth Swim Across America lab in the country, demonstrating our growth as an organization and the tirelessness of our participants and donors.

Our Babes are Getting Bigger! 

A couple of our very new swims completely blew us out of the water this year. Atlanta is the youngest of the open water siblings, and this May, it hit $250,000 in fundraising! Set on beautiful Lake Spivey, all donations from this inaugural swim went directly to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

The second youngest in the SAA family, SAA Nantucket, was not to be outdone by its baby sib, though. In only it’s second year, Nantucket flew past its fundraising goal like Phelps by the competition and raised $180,000. The 55% jump in fundraising can be attributed to the dedication of all the swimmers that make this late summer event a blast!

The New Kids in Town

SAA Chicago debuted a new event at their swim this year in addition to their ½, 1, 1½ or 3 mile distance choices. The new Relay Swim across Lake Michigan was a hit, and helped the already firmly established swim raise almost $400,000 for the Rush University Cancer Center this past July.

The Michael Phelps Swim School also partnered with Swim Across America this year to offer the new Breakowt clinics to swimmers in Baltimore and Seattle. The innovative and comprehensive training session brings confidence and skill to new open water swimmers, and was run the day before each SAA swim.

Makin’ Waves, Breakin’ Records

Three of our open water swims made us proud as they reached new heights this summer. In tiny Rhode Island, the annual swim at Narragansett hosted a whopping 500 swimmers! A record number for this swim, all proceeds from participants went to Women and Infants Hospital.

Some say the Golden Gate Bridge that gleams over the Bay is the main attraction of the SAA San Francisco swim, and apparently a lot of potential participants thought so! The swim sold out all of its spots a week and a half in advance, and raised over half a million dollars.

SAA Greenwich followed suit, with over half a million dollars raised for their beneficiary, but they saw one of their tribute teams make history. Team College, a group swimming in honor of college friend Colin Campbell, raised $135,000 alone, which is one of the most amounts ever raised in SAA history.

A year of firsts for Swim Across America, we’re proud to say that all of our open water events made waves this summer!

Twin Swims

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For the past couple years, Swim Across America has hosted two late summer swims on the same day- at opposite ends of the country! The Rhode Island and Seattle open water events are twin swims, and like any set, they’ve got a lot in common but also have distinct personalities. Since we’re not ones for sibling rivalry, we decided to spotlight both swims to connect our SAA family across the continent!

Rhode Island: East Coast

Over on the Atlantic side, the smallest state in the union hosts one heck of a swim. Rhode Island’s SAA swim is marked by a mix of intense energy and intimacy, and is a blast to participate in.

Walk onto the beach as the sun rises, and our DJ will be playing “Party Rock Anthem.” The Narragansett venue attracts the most college swimmers at an SAA event in the country, so most of our top fundraisers in the Ocean State are still students. (As of this posting, Providence College has been holding steady as the top team fundraiser with over $14,000!)

Not to be outdone by the youthful exuberance of the college kids, local Rhode Islanders have been incredibly dedicated to SAA. The family is small- watch for how many locals chat up RI-born-and-bred Olympian Clara Walker- and everyone knows someone who’s been treated at beneficiary Women and Infants, making this swim a very personal one.

With both a half-mile and full mile distance, swimmers can choose their challenge at Roger Wheeler State Beach. Rhode Islanders commonly describe themselves as small but strong, but there’s nothing little about the life and heart emerging from the Narragansett waters as SAA swimmers run up on the beach!

Seattle: West Coast

Out West, Seattle starts the summer sendoff in style with their swim off Mercer Island in Lake Washington. Always prepared to innovate, Seattle is one of the first cities in the SAA family to host a BREAKOWT clinic, which is run in conjunction with the Michael Phelps Swim School and preps swimmers for open water events.

The Mercer Island swim has got something for everyone with a 50-meter kids’ splash, ½ mile and 2 mile swim. The entire family has almost no excuse to stay out of the water, and it seems that they won’t! SAA Seattle is hosting 37 (yes, 37!) tribute teams this year, so Lake Washington will be teeming with powerhouse teams!

The most unique aspect of Seattle’s event is that it’s the only one in the nation that has a corporate matching system. Through the McAdams Wright Ragen Matching Program, a bonus will be donated in the name of the top ten teams if they raise a combined $120,000. It’s a generous and original program that proves that SAA Seattle leads the way in shaping unique events.

Benefitting the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, this West Coast swim’s goal is to raise three times as much as its twin swim, but that hardly takes away from the family-reunion feel of the event. Pancakes on the beach attract the likes of Olympians Ariana Kukors, Jeff Float, Dana Kirk, and Rick Colella, to name a few. That familial spirit hangs on the beach with the “why I swim” flags in Seattle, and considering the innovation that has come to define SAA Seattle, it makes for a vibrant event full of surprises and above all, life.

Two oceans. Two events. One cause. Like any set of twins, our swims in Seattle and Rhode Island are connected in spirit, and serve to connect all who’ve been touched by cancer. We’ll see you on the beach- you choose the coast!