St. Vincent's SWIM Across the Sound Marathon
A Means to an End

 

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Approximately 160 swimmers and 103 boat captains began their day at 5:00 a.m. filled with excitement and anticipation.  They were ready to take on the Long Island Sound for this year’s SWIM Across the Sound Marathon, a fundraising event to help individuals and families battling cancer. 

Although the forecast called for rain and wind before clearing late afternoon, there was no telling whether sea conditions were going to remain acceptable enough for going the entire 15.5 distance from Port Jefferson, Long Island to Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport.  Yet, all were optimistic, and the Marathon began as planned with light drizzling rain, fairly calm waters at the start.  As time went on, however, the chop of the waves steadily increased.

By 10:30am, sea conditions worsened and became a cause for concern.  Marathon Director, Liz Fry and Safety Officer, Joe Savino agreed it was time to turn to the contingency plan designed for ensuring the safety of all participants. The swimmers were pulled from the water and brought back to Captain’s Cove by their escort boats, along with the medical, safety, law enforcement, and other specialty boats and volunteers.  Although disappointed,   there was a common sense of exhilaration for the opportunity to get this far. Despite the weather, there was a uniform sentiment of relief and high regard for the officials who made the difficult decision to change course and turn to the contingency plan.

 

“It was absolutely the right call,” said Mike Herrington who was responsible for recruiting the boats for the marathon.

 

 

 

 

 

By 1:00pm, the contingency course was set up in Bridgeport Harbor for swimmers to swim an equivalent amount of miles inside the harbor protected from the strong wind and waves they had just experienced.  Boats aligned the course with officials, safety and medical personnel, and guides. 

The SWIM continued on the alternative courses in Black Rock Harbor and ran for approximately 3 hours.  On the 2.7 mile loop, solo swimmers, Katie Pumphrey (Baltimore, MD) and Mariel Hawley Davila (Mexico), swam 7.5 miles in the harbor making their combined swim an impressive 13.5 miles.  Two-relay teams, Penfield Swimming and Two Powerful, also took on the Black Rock Harbor challenge, swimming two loops and adding to their 11+ mile swim for the day.

Participating in the contingency plan was optional, and some swimmers and captains elected to celebrate what they had accomplished to that point.  Whether they went onto participate in the contingency course or not, there as a palpable sense of pride at Captain’s Cove by all who had been part of the event for a cause bigger than themselves.

 

Brad Batchelor of the Trumbull Pisces team remarked, “Despite the weather on Saturday, I believe the SWIM was truly a success.”   

 

 

 

 


Dave Stratford, captain of the relay team, Shari’s Sharks added, “We weren’t really disappointed with not being able to complete the SWIM.  We realize  that the SWIM is a means to an end -- that end being helping people who have been touched by cancer. “ The Marathon was a very personal mission for Dave.  His wife is a breast cancer survivor, but  sadly, her best friend, Shari lost the battle, as did Dave’s own mother.

 

 




Steve Mettler from the Breaking Barriers relay team stated, “We’re already planning for next year.”  “I was really impressed with how well this event was run and organized.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After finishing the contingency course, Sailfish 1’s Swim Captain, Kristen Borgognone, said, “We are so thrilled to have participated. The SWIM brought people together who otherwise might never have had the chance to work together, and we really bonded.  There was excellent camaraderie, not just with our team, but with our sister team, the Security Bullsharks, with whom we swam on occasion for practice.  We also were impressed with the amount of support and investment we received from our organization.  It was so heart-warming,” she added.

 At the Celebration Ceremony, Marathon Director, Liz Fry, presented the Dream of Life Award to Tom Casey and his team, The Survivors, for their spirit and dedication to the SWIM Across the Sound. Casey has been swimming in the Marathon since 2002.  In 2012, Casey was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery and treatment.   He recovered in time to participate in the 2013 with much enthusiasm.  Unfortunately his cancer returned and Casey completed his second round of treatment just two months ago.  Through much determination, Casey participated in the SWIM Marathon again this year.  “Tom’s zest for life no matter what it throws at you represents the epitome of what the SWIM is all about,” said Fry.

Each swimmer raised funds in order to participate in the SWIM, and all money raised go toward St. Vincent’s 45 cancer education, prevention, and assistance programs.  Borgognone said this year seemed very emotional as many who donated really seemed to give from their hearts for the cause.

SWIM Marathon - Thank You

Lyn McCarthy, Executive Director of St. Vincent’s Foundation, was moved by the tremendous commitment displayed throughout the preparation and during the actual event. “We are forever grateful to all the swimmers, boat captains, crew, volunteers, donors, and all who are involved.  Their generosity and commitment is astounding.  Each person began the morning with such determination, and despite having to go to the contingency plan, so may have indicated that they plan to return next year.  On behalf of St. Vincent’s Health Services and Foundation, thank you.”

Over the past 27 years, what the SWIM has been able to accomplish for those suffering from cancer – and for their families –is a true testament to what commitment, determination and community support can achieve.  Since that first marathon raising $5,000 back in 1987, the SWIM has grown into a series of year-round events raising more than $2 million annually – which helps support the 45 different programs that touch the lives of more than 30,000 in the state of Connecticut.  People fighting cancer, some without insurance or money for food, utilities, medications or housing, now have somewhere to turn thanks to the SWIM.

SWIM Across the Sound provides screening and support services to our community, ranging from prevention to survivorship programs. The SWIM offers a significant safety net to our region by providing one-on-one financial assistance to cancer patients regardless of where they receive their care. We are often the charity of last resort for people with cancer in our community who would otherwise have no place else to turn.