Make Waves to Fight Cancer

Get your swim caps ready! It’s time to “Make Waves to Fight Cancer” at the 3rd Annual Swim Across America Open Water Swim on April 20th. The event is held at beautiful Founder’s Park in Islamorada, attracting swimmers, volunteers, and sponsors from South Florida to Key West and beyond.

All money raised stays local, directly funding Phase 1 Cancer Research at Miami Cancer Institute, which is part of the Keys’ Baptist Health Network. The last two years have brought in an incredible $210,000, with nearly every penny going directly to Miami Cancer Institute research programs. These Phase 1 research programs promote out-of-the-box thinking that results in new cancer therapies and treatments.

As a highest-rated charity, Swim Across America funds over 60 grants annually, and 100% of the grant money goes directly to specific research, not the institutions. These focused grants have led to four approved cancer treatments that are changing and saving lives today. This year’s goal of $150,000 will support even more breakthroughs.

The Swim Across America Florida Keys event is a non-competitive swim, open to participants of all ages and swimming abilities. Swimmers can choose between a half-mile, one-mile, or the new 2-mile swim. All are mostly shallow, clearly marked, and closely monitored by in-water volunteers on kayaks, paddleboards, and personal watercraft.

Some volunteers serve as “Angel Swimmers” that swim alongside participants, encouraging them along the way. Last year, Craig Beardsley, a national butterfly record holder, served as an Angel Swimmer, and Tony Corbesero, a U.S. record holder in the 1500m freestyle, served on the safety patrol.

Craig and Tony are volunteering again this year, along with Olympic Gold Medalists Steve Lunquist, Eric Wunderlich, and Jon Olsen. These giants in the swim world bring their enthusiasm, expertise, and their gold medals for participants to take pictures with!

The event organizers, Glenn and Susan Latham, are also excited to announce the addition of “Kids Splash.” It’s a fun way to include younger children and introduce them to open water swim in a very safe environment.

Adult participants pledge to raise $500, while those under 18 commit to fundraising $200. Many participants form teams with friends, family, or colleagues, with each team member raising funds based on their age. The Kids Splash only requires a small registration fee.

“Participants are really enthusiastic about this fundraiser because they know exactly where the money is going. Plus,” Susan adds with a smile, “it’s just plain fun! We have music, Olympians, a beautiful location… it’s an ideal outing for locals and people even fly in to participate!”

Those who can’t make it in person can opt to “SAA My Way” as virtual participants that swim at their preferred time and location. Between virtual and in-person, Glenn and Susan hope to have 150 swimmers this year, which is quite feasible as past participants happily return with more friends and family.

All participants receive a towel and t-shirt to take home. The t-shirts feature sponsors of the event that range from In-Kind and $1,000 Angelfish Sponsors all the way to $10,000 Manatee Sponsors. Depending on the tier, sponsor benefits include radio coverage, social media coverage, and logo placement on the website, promotional materials, visors, and more.

“Everyone has been touched by cancer in some way,” Glenn, as a prostate cancer survivor himself, says. “Swim Across America is a tangible way to make a difference. Participants honor those in their lives who have fought cancer and give hope to those who may face it in the future.”

Are you ready to “Make Waves to Fight Cancer?” To register as a swimmer, become a sponsor or volunteer, or make a donation, please visit SwimAcrossAmerica.org/FloridaKeys.

– Jerrica Mah is a writer, Army wife, and freelance book editor, who loves to travel with her family.

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