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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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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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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