After an incredible first year, Swim Across America is hosting its 2nd Annual Florida Keys Open Water Swim on April 15th at Founders Park. Last year’s inaugural swim raised $110,000 for local phase 1 cancer research. This year, they hope to make even bigger waves to fight cancer.
The Swim Across America organization was founded in 1987 and has raised over $100 million since its inception. That number has been exponentially growing, with over $10 million raised last year alone. A significant chunk of that funding came from the Florida Keys, thanks to Glenn and Susan Latham.
Glenn & Susan Latham met at the University of Florida and got jobs out of college in Miami. They spent much of their free time sailing in the Keys until their careers took them to Southern California. As beautiful as the beaches are in SoCal, the Lathams yearned for the Keys lifestyle until they were finally able to settle here in retirement.
The couple is very active and makes the most of the island lifestyle, boating, diving, fishing, and swimming. The latter led them to launch this fundraising event. The Lathams were swimming with an early member of Swim Across America, Bob Coakley, who told them about the organization.
“Everyone has been affected by cancer directly or indirectly,” Glenn says, “us included. So, Swim Across America’s mission really appealed to us.”
Glenn is a cancer survivor after a 4-year battle against metastatic prostate cancer. He and Susan have also lost loved ones to the disease. They’re certainly not alone as Glenn points out, “1 out of 2 men and 1 out of 3 women are diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives.”
“We have participated in walking fundraisers for cancer research in the past,” Susan says, “but what better way to raise awareness and funds in the Keys than swimming?”
The Swim Across America Florida Keys event is a non-competitive swim for nearly all ages and swimming abilities. Participants can choose between a half-mile or one-mile swim that is mostly shallow, clearly marked, and monitored by in-water volunteers on kayaks, paddleboards, and personal watercraft.
Adult participants pledge to raise $500, and youth under the age of 18 pledge $200. Many participants form teams with their friends, family, or colleagues, with each team member raising the amount according to their age. Virtual participants can also “SAA My Way” to swim at their chosen time and location.
“The event went so well last year that many swimmers are returning with friends or expanding their teams,” Susan says. “Word has spread quickly, and participants are even coming from across the country, including Olympic swimmers.”
SAA Florida Keys has the highest rating a 501(c)3 can earn due to its local impact and “efficient contributions,” which means nearly all of the donations go directly to the cause. Only a minimal amount goes to marketing and other overhead expenses.
“The best part about SAA Florida Keys is the money stays in our community,” Glenn explains. “The contributions benefit phase 1 cancer research at Miami Cancer Institute, which is part of our local Baptist Health network.”
Phase 1 cancer research focuses on new therapies that show promise in treating or curing cancer. Miami Cancer Institute is well-known for such research, which was greatly supported by last year’s $110,000 fundraising success.
To make even bigger waves to fight cancer, this year’s goal is $150,000, and they hope to have at least 150 swimmers helping them achieve that goal. To register as a swimmer, become a sponsor or volunteer, or donate, visit SwimAcrossAmerica.org/FloridaKeys.
-Jerrica Mah is a writer, Army wife, and freelance book editor who loves to travel vicariously through stories.