Top Questions For… Top San Francisco Fundraiser Steve Barbour

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This weekend, the SAA family will take to the waters in the San Francisco Bay for our final swim. The annual swim is set to raise over $450,000 to benefit the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute!

Steve Barbour joined the SAA – SF family in 2011, and took no time to get his feet wet (pun intended). He has been one of the top fundraisers for the swim in each of his three years participating, and those who know him can attest to the warmth he exudes, even if the Bay is chilly! We caught up with him to chat about his tribute team, the secret to successful fundraising and the taking a dip under the Golden Gate.

  1. Tell us a little about who or why you’ve gotten involved with SAA.

I started swimming 3 years ago to get back in shape and help manage stress. I happen to swim at the same facility as Susan Helmrich, who is a co-chair of the SF swim, and she invited me to join her team. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

  1. Are you a natural swimmer? Why choose a distance swim instead of a run or bike?

I’m not a natural swimmer although my younger brother Dave was competitive and a Laguna Beach lifeguard for many years. At first I thought I could train my way up to be competitive with him although he is 10 years my junior… big mistake! But now we can distance swim together, although he has to hold back and swim at maybe 65%. He did the event last year and it was great. Then we swam Alcatraz the next morning!

  1. Tell us about your team and the people swimming with you.

I swim on Team Susan Survives. It’s a fairly large group, as Susan knows everyone. You can’t help but be inspired by how she has managed her challenges (3 time survivor).

  1. You’re a top fundraiser for the San Francisco swim! What’s your secret?

I’ve been very fortunate in my career. I’ve worked at a large company for many years (Nestlé), and my wife and I have moved with the Company a number of times so we have a fairly large number of friends, both in and outside the company, that are happy to help out. The real secret is starting early, say early June, and following up occasionally, as often times the first or second email is just lost as people are so busy. It does take time… but it is obviously worth it! I also think I have an easier time because this is the only event that I ask for support from my family, friends and contacts.

  1. Would you rather: swim 3 miles on a sunny day or 1 mile with a shark tailing you?

I’ll take the 3 miles every time!!!

  1. How have you been touched by cancer?

We lost my Uncle Les way too early from brain cancer… he was only 55. And a friend and co-worker for over 25 years lost his son, David Stroud, to cancer. That was very tragic.

  1. What do you remember from your first SAA swim that keeps you coming back?

That was the year David Stroud passed away… just before the event…the kid was unbelievably tough, and I still get emotional when I think about it.

  1. What makes the SAA – San Francisco swim so unique?

With all due respect to Chicago, New York, and the other locations, you can’t beat swimming from under the Golden Gate into Crissy Field! The views and the location cannot be beat. It is iconic!!!

  1. What makes Swim Across America special?

I have really enjoyed all the people I have come into contact with in the SAA organization as well as the local event leaders. It is also important that SAA does a good job managing their cost structure so that the bulk of the funds raised go to the intended purpose.  And obviously, I enjoy swimming in the Bay.

  1. What is your favorite time of day to swim? Why?

I like to swim early… I used to hit the water at 6:30 AM, but now that I am retired, I start an hour later, and spend more time in the whirlpool! It’s a great way to start the day!

@SAASwimmerProblems

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It’s happened to all of us… our cap rips, our goggles break, we can’t seem to escape the smell of chlorine… It’s what we call “swimmer problems.” We’ve taken it a step further and thought about some fun “SAA swimmer problems” and here’s what we came up with!

-forgot my bodyglide #chaffing

-no warmdown in the open water #SAAsolutions

-crushin’ on your angel swimmer #mouthtomouthplease

-wetsuit only took 2 minutes to put on #winning

-fainted when Phelps looked my way #baltimoreSAAproblems

-up before the sun rises on event day #thoughtiwasdonewiththis #coffeeplease

-i hate flip turns anyways #openwaterproblems

-dj is playing my jam #its10am #bostonharborpartyboat

-watched jaws last night #worstideaever

-first open water swim, last time i’ll forget my goggles #rookiestatus

#nowallznoproblemz
-raccoon eyes in my pic with an Olympian #lookinfine
-swam by a sea turtle #canigetaride? #SAAtampabay
-2 mile swim means i can eat this whole pizza, right? #notsorry
Comment and leave your own versions of #saaswimmerproblems

Back to School: Lessons for Swim Across America

You can almost hear the cheers echoing from parents across the country- it’s back to school time! It’s the season for molding minds, but the beginning of the school year marks the end of SAA’s event season, and students aren’t the only ones headed back to the classroom.

After a summer of swims, we like to look back and evaluate ourselves. We’re always looking to improve! Here are the top three lessons we’ve learned from 2013’s events, and what they’re teaching us as we move forward.

1- We Can Take Our Events to the Next Level

We want to give people more to do at our swims without distracting from the main event. Our participants deserve the chance to celebrate their hard work and enjoy a well-run event! We’ve got plans for goodie bags from our sponsors, activities outside the water, and happenings to include the whole family all in the works for next season.

2- Selling Yourself Pays Off

When a participant registers for a swim, we give them a personal page on SAA’s website.  That page is used to track your fundraising and to advertise yourself to potential donors, and it can be made unique to you and your tribute team. This year, we noticed a huge correlation between the money participants raised and whether they edited their personal page or not. A little blurb on yourself serves to distinguish you and also to attract and excite potential donors, so why not do it?

3- Swag Makes Us Shine

In our effort to make a bigger impact, we’ve realized that we need to pay attention to growing our brand. With greater recognition of SAA comes higher participation rates, and ultimately bigger fundraising for our beneficiaries. We revamped our logo this year, streamlined the brand, and kicked it up a couple notches on our swag. Our t-shirts are softer, banners and arches are flashier, and we’ve got SUITS now!! Feelin’ great and lookin’ good is helping us grow, encouraging love for SAA and recruiting more team members in our fight for a cure.

We may not be stuck in those uncomfortable desk-chair combos from 10th grade, but we’re always working to learn from our experiences at SAA.

Got a suggestion to help us learn more? Leave us a comment!

Welcome!

Welcome to the NEW Swim Across America blog!

From the very first dollar we raised to reaching the $50 million dollar mark this year, money raised local has always stayed local at Swim Across America. SAA swimmers know the impact they are making in the fight against cancer, and with that motto we’ve grown from a single beach swim to dozens across the US.

With that in mind, we’re insanely excited to launch this platform to keep you in the loop as we team up in the fight against cancer together. Our blog will bring to life the best of SAA, including olympian and swimmer interviews, #swimmerproblems, photo updates on events and things you never would have known about SAA otherwise. We welcome your feedback and hope you and the entire SAA family enjoy what we share. Comments are always welcome.

In our lifetime, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer. We’re in the business of changing that. Stay involved with us in the water, on land, or online by leaving us comments and feedback, and together, we can Make Waves to Fight Cancer!

Love,

Janel Jorgensen McArdle
SAA President & CEO

Janel