Author Archives: theseattleswim

WSJ Article: Swim Across America – a “kinder, gentler” fundraiser

Runs, walks and bikes are the go-to for many charity fundraisers. But a Boston-based group has made swimming the focus of raising money and, in the process, funneled over $40 million in donations to cancer charities across the country.

Swim Across America, founded 25 years ago, began with an open water swim in Nantucket, Mass. Now, the organization hosts some 17 open-water swims across the country, including swims under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and a lake in Dallas. Funds are raised by sponsoring swimmers and any donations stay within the community where the event is held and benefit local cancer organizations. The organization plans to raise between $5 and $6 million this year between open-water and pool swims.

This Saturday, organizers in the Greenwich and Stamford, Conn., areas will host a sixth-annual swim. Distances are a ½-mile up to five miles. The event is expected to draw more than 300 swimmers of all skill levels and raise about $500,000 for the Stamford, Conn.-based Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy. ACGT focuses on funding innovative cancer treatments for some 11 different kinds of cancer including lymphoma, prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.


What drives the organization is focusing the events on a commitment to cancer research and not the race, says Janel Jorgensen McArdle, president and chief executive of Swim Across America.

Doctors and researchers attend the event and make presentations for the swimmers so they participants will know exactly where the donations are going.

The events draw recreational swimmers, cancer survivors and even some Olympians. Ms. McArdle, who has raised money in Swim Across America events, is originally from Ridgefield, Conn., and grew up swimming at a YMCA in Wilton, Conn. As a teenager she swam with the 1988 Olympic team and earned a silver medal in the women’s 400 medley relay. (She keeps her medal handy to show kids when she teaches swim clinics.)

Ms. McArdle stresses that the swims are designed to be fun. “It’s not a race or a triathlon,” she says. “It’s a kinder, gentler event. The focus is not on who wins, but who raises the most money.”

Greenwich is the first big swim in the region. The Larchmont swim, to be held July 28 in Long Island Sound, will raise an estimated $1.3 million for New York-based cancer organizations. Open water swims in New York are also planned for Amagansett in July and Glen Cove in August, both with goals of $750,000.

Ms. McArdle says that the organization’s goal is to expand the number of swims nationally and to reach a $10 million-a-year goal within the next five years.

“There are all of these people swimming for their own reasons and that’s what makes the event so powerful,” she says. “Unfortunately everybody is touched by cancer. So when you get this passionate group that’s trying to make a difference…it’s really an impact.”

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Mighty Warrior – Katie Collier’s Story

While looking through Seattle Cancer Care Alliance’s website and blog, I came across this great post about a local teenage athlete and her battle with leukemia. I found it particularly interesting as it discussing an age group that rarely gets talked about. And while this patient/survivor isn’t a swimmer, she truly is an inspiring athlete.

After viewing this post, we hope that you recognize that Young people with cancer may find themselves with unique needs and questions during their treatment. Seattle Children’s Hospital, one of the @SCCA founding organizations, is sponsoring a special event called “Northwest Regional Young Adults with Cancer Event” May 10 in South Lake Union. Young adults with cancer will share information and network during the free evening event. Details can be seen here:


posted by: Kirsti R.

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Lately, I’ve been amazed at how many wonderful fundraising events there are in the Puget Sound Area. Each summer (because only truly crazy Seattleites would attempt an athletic fundraiser other than during the summer!), I sit down and look through all of the great resource sites that are available to us now and pick a few that intrigue me.

Years ago, I had lofty goals – I think one summer I attempted to participate at some level in 10 events. Yes, 10. I had obviously lost my mind. Now that reality has set in, along with 2 children and a job, not to mention aching bones, I find myself focusing on just one. I settle my mind be reassuring myself that although it is only one event, I will put my heart and soul into it.

For the past 3 years, my fundraising “event of choice” has been the Seattle Swim for the Swim Across America. It has been a truly amazing experience in every aspect. After having lost a dear friend to cancer a few years ago, I couldn’t have found a better way to honor him. The swimmers I’ve met and have grown to call friends, the unbelievable volunteers who pull together to put it on, and the countless people who work for the beneficiary, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, ALL continue to inspire me. Did I mention the fantastic amount of money has been raised each year of this event?

Last weekend, after dinner with an old friend, I have had a change of heart. No longer will I have the excuse that I can only put my heart into one event, one way of helping, one way of contributing. We had started talking and she shared with me that she’ll be starting a new job next week, one that entails heading up the start of a new local fundraising event. After hearing all of her great ideas and seeing her obvious excitement, my brain started calculating all of the different ways that I could support her, her event, and her endeavors. Not only could we choose to participate in any of these events, we could team up at each others’ events, whether it be by participating, my volunteering, or armed with marketing information about the others respective happenings. The opportunities are endless and are all made possible by the fantastic community of athletes and supporters here in Seattle.

No longer will I make excuses. There are so many unbelievable organizations that need our help and honestly every little bit helps. I’ll try not to be overwhelmed by the fundraising goals or athletic challenges they may pose; I won’t stress over time I may or may not have; to be there to help out the day of, support leading up to, or participate in post-event projects. As our omnipresent friend Nike says, “Just do it”. And I intend to.

I feel so lucky to live in this great community. That’s truly what it’s all about …
Community supporting Community

The following is a list of a few great events and organizations that I support/have a personal connection to. I encourage you to forward along and share any that you are proud to support as well.

Swim Across America (

Run for Hope (

“Ooo-Um-Gowah” (

Ben Towne Foundation (

Trek Tri-Island/Ride Around the Sound – American Lung Association of WA

posted by: Kirsti Rochon

Categories: Cancer research, Events, Sponsors, Survivor stories, Why we swim | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Andy Hill swims – Team Samena

I’ve been swimming with the Samena Master group on/off for over 4 years now.  I’ve always used swimming as a form of exercise and recreation with friends and family.  I have been swimming in an organized team since high school.  It is a social network and fitness outlet for me.   I’ve flirted with other activities (running, biking, skiing, hiking, sports, …), but continue to rely on swimming for the ‘full workout’.  It’s a lifestyle.  I’ve met some of my closest friends through swimming.  Swimming makes me healthy, rehabs me from injuries, rescues me from family/ professional stresses, and keeps me safe in the waterways that surround us. 

It’s because of this that I feel so strongly about encouraging others to jump in the pool.  It can change a life for anyone wanting to improve their health.  It will surround you with people that are healthy in mind, body, and soul.  It connects you and grounds you.  It also give you opportunities to participate with your community in meaningful ways.  We are fortunate to have several events to allow you to swim to help others.  Every summer when our lakes warm up, there are several organized events that provide the opportunity to swim safely, for exercise, and for others.  I would encourage you to put these on your calendar.  I schedule to participate in the ‘Swim for Life’, ‘Park to Park’, and ‘Swim Across America’.

As an example, the ‘Swim across America’ is the only fund raiser I ask my friends and family to contribute to in support of something I feel strongly about.  On a personal note, I lost my mother to cancer when I was 10 and felt it was right to dedicate my efforts to one ‘ask’ per year that felt right for me. I don’t know anyone not touched by this tragic disease. The ‘Swim Across America’ is one of the best organized fund raisers for cancer and allows me to participate in a meaningful way. If any of this rings true to you (even in part), I would highly encourage you to participate. It feels good making a difference and joining such a well-organized event.  I would also encourage you to look at the other swim events that might have similar meaning to you.

This year we will be organizing the Samena Masters Group to participate as a team in the ‘Swim Across America’ event on September 8th, 2012.  Please contact me at if you would be interested in joining our team.  It always proves to be a wonderful time.  Sincerely, Andy Hill

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Seattle Swim tip – breaststroke 3-2-1 kick drill for less resistance

That narrow kick is reducing resistance.

This week I thought we would change up the stroke to breaststroke.  Check out the simple 3-2-1 breaststroke drill anyone can do to improve their stroke by reducing resistance on the kick.  See you in the water.

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Why We Swim: Team Old McDonalds

Organized by Team Captain Scott Whelan, the Old McDonalds are swimming to raise money for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) in honor of Doug McDonald, Ida Rae McDonald, Desmond Whelan and Jessica Evans, all who have fought or are fighting cancer.

Doug and Ida Rae McDonald are cancer survivors who were both treated and cared for at SCCA – Skagit Valley Medical Center in Mount Vernon, WA. Just this past year both were successfully treated at SCCA (Ida Rae for breast cancer and Doug for melanoma). Scott Whelan and Rochelle Whelan will swam in memory of the beloved Desmond Whelan of Galway, Ireland who we lost last year to cancer. David Corey swam in memory of his good friend Jessica Evans. Good Luck Swimmers!

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Seattle Swim tip – backstroke to free drill

Working towards this backstroke.

Hello everybody – here is a cool backstroke drill to use your freestyle rhythm and consistency to roll right into your backstroke. It’s getting warmer out there, which is great for swim season! See you in the water.

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Why We Swim: Team Larissa’s Crew

Team “Larissa’s Crew” is swimming in honor of Larissa Jean Dhanani. Larissa is currently battling Acute Lymphomcytic Leukemia and on April 19, 2011, she received an extremely successful bone marrow transplant, thanks to an experimental protocol done with research funded by the Swim Across America. Larissa’s exceptional care and treatment provided by the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance has inspired us to give back to our community. Larissa is a truly inspiring woman and a very close friend and relative to all of us swimming in last year’s Swim Across America in Seattle, WA. Larissa is living proof that the funds raised through the Swim Across America directly affect the outcomes of those battling cancer.

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Seattle Swim tip: Freestyle kick

Not as easy as it looks

Hey folks – Here is a little gem on incorporating a 6-beat kick into your stroke. I have some work to do this week!  See you in the water.

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Welcome Group Health – a Seattle Swim sponsor!

We want to than Group Health for being a Seattle Swim corporate sponsor!

Marking its 65th year, Group Health Cooperative is an innovative, consumer-governed, nonprofit health care system that integrates care and coverage. Along with its subsidiary carriers, Group Health Options, Inc. and KPS Health Plans, Group Health works to improve the health of over 665,000 plan members in Washington and Idaho.

More than 9,000 staff employed by Group Health and Group Health Physicians, its contracted, multispecialty group practice, provide patient-centered, evidence-based care to members and the broader community through medical centers, a charitable foundation, and a nationally recognized research center.

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Seattle Swim tip: Your flip turn is rockin’ 5 of 5

Now you know what this feels like!

If you have been following to this point or want to go back through the sequence, I hope you have noticed as much of an improvement as I have in the pool.

Yes, I felt a bit funny out there doing summersaults through the noodle a few weeks ago, but what a result!

This last freestyle flip turn installment ties all 5 steps together. I hope you can spend more time enjoying your workout, less time gasping for breath between turns.

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Why BJ Phillips swims – Team Dudes for Kass

BJ Phillips' Aunt Kathy holding his baby

Why do I swim?  For Kass!

My Aunt Kathy was this amazing woman who played the role of “the cool aunt” for me.  It could have been because she was my youngest Aunt, but I think it was much more than that… She watched MTV and liked hip hop, loved the Mariners and the Sonics, and let my cousin Wes and I turn her living room into a real life WWF wrestling arena.

I called her Kass because she was my friend.  She and my Dad referred to each other simply as Dude and Dudette.  Most of all, she was “cool”  because of the great relationship she had with her kids.  She poured herself into them, and they in turn into her.  She was their friend when they needed a friend, and a mom when they needed a mom.  I became a father myself recently, and it makes me happy to know that she is an ingredient in the tossed salad of parenthood that comes from mixing in my wife and both our families.

Kathy passed away in November after a 7 year battle with ovarian cancer.  It wasn’t the first time cancer struck our family, but that didn’t make it any easier.  Through it all, she kept her amazing spirit and managed to smile at every opportunity, even if she had to create one.  When I hopped in the pool two years ago to begin training to swim in her honor, it had been years since I tallied up any yardage.

Most life-long swimmers will agree:  years of laps as an age group swimmer, then into high school and beyond, have a way of slowly wearing down the edges.  But Kass kept putting one foot in front of the other, kept smiling, kept fighting… so why not keep putting one hand in front of the other each day for a few months?  Slowly, the rhythms of the morning became ritual again, and I learned to love something all over.  Just another thing Kass gave to Dad (Dude) and me:  the rediscovery of something lost.  This year, team Dudes for Kass transitions to swimming in Kass’ memory, which will undoubtedly take on new meaning and bring new revelations during the 6 o’clock hour.  She may not be on shore holding a box of donuts, but she will be with our every stroke, as she always was.

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Seattle Swim tip: flip turn step 4 of 5

You may not think so, but your flip turn is starting to look like this!

Hey there Seattle Swim participants. If you are in the pool here in March, hopefully this series is of some use.

Here is part 4 of the 5 part series on learning a flip turn.  See you in the water.

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First melanoma drug in 13 years: SAA lab at Sloan Kettering

Our lab gets it done in the fight against melanoma.

For those of you who may have missed the NBC Nightly News last night, there was excellent coverage of Jedd Wolchok, who heads up our Swim Across America Laboratory at Memorial Sloan Kettering.  As most of you know, last year, the SAA Lab was responsible for developing ipilumumab, the first melanoma drug, to be approved by the FDA in over 13 years.

Jedd and his team are now taking that drug and in combination with radiation seeing even more promising results and hopes that the same approach they are doing for melanoma could work with kidney, lung and other cancers.
Jedd, we are so proud to continue to support all the incredible research that you and your team are doing at MSK. Please pass along our congratulations to your team and keep us in the loop on your further discoveries!  You are doing incredible work!
Everyone, please take time to watch and read the attached link below…..and feel free to forward it along to your local committees.
Best, Janel
Swim Across America Executive Director
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Why Susanne Quistgaard swims – Team Tachywaves

Susanne Quistgaard is a multi-year Seattle Swim veteran and team captain

Swimming helped shape my life into what it is today. Remember that book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? I could write the book All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Swimming.

I took my first swim lesson at age 4, joined a team at age 8, and swam competitively through high school. Swimming taught me to set goals and work hard. It taught me good sportsmanship and how to get along with others. It taught me to be interested in my health, which ultimately sparked my interest in medicine and led to my career in family medicine.

Swim Across America is the perfect combination of two of my life passions – health and swimming. I swim for the many patients that touch my life with their struggles against cancer. I swim for my former work partner, Dr. Jeff Schlameus, who died 4 years ago from chemotherapy complications. I swim for my fellow book group member, Donna Walsh, who lost her battle with lymphoma a little over a year ago. I swim for my lifelong friend, Christi Hanks, who was diagnosed with breast cancer and melanoma last year. I swim for my son’s friend, Evan Dubicki, who was diagnosed with leukemia at age 2. I swim for my high school friend’s mom, Cindy Karst, who is currently battling breast cancer.

Swimming makes me a better person. I swim for myself and for others. How perfect is that?

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