Hundreds of Fairfield County swimmers and volunteers dove in and made a big splash at the 17th annual Swim Across America Fairfield County open water swim that was held on Saturday, June 24, in Long Island Sound on the shore of Dolphin Cove in Stamford, Connecticut.
An incredible $356,561 was raised (and the dollars are still growing) to support Swim Across America Fairfield County’s local beneficiary Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT), headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, at the location of the open water swim.
“This year’s open water swim was one of our biggest ever with close to 200 swimmers, which is a testament to the broad impact of cancer and how it has ignited a passion in the community to make a difference,” said Nancy Carr, one of the co-event directors. “We were a little worried that the rain in the forecast would dampen the event, but the rain stopped, the sun came out, and our swimmers, boaters, kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders and land volunteers all had a great morning making waves to fight cancer.”
Funds raised at the swim support crucial cancer gene therapy research. This year’s Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy research fellows funded by Swim Across America Fairfield County are working to harness the power of cell and gene therapy and create immunotherapies in the areas of brain, pancreatic and lung cancer, along with treating solid tumors.
The scientists receiving the grants are Juan Fueyo, MD, at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (brain cancer), Sidi Chen, PhD, at Yale University School of Medicine (pancreatic cancer), and Brian Brown, PhD, at the Icahn Genomics Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York (lung and solid tumors). Dr. Brian Brown was at the event and spoke about how funds raised at the swim are making a difference in his research. He was so moved by the support and seeing how many came out to make waves to fight cancer, that he pledged to come back next year and volunteer as a kayaker! Those interested in supporting the fundraising efforts can still do so at swimacrossamerica.org/fc. Individuals and teams continue to fundraise throughout the year for Swim Across America Fairfield County. Additional events like pool swims and water polo tournaments are also held this summer and a Sip & Shop event is scheduled for later in the fall.
In the past 17 years, Swim Across America has raised more than $5.6 million for Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy in support of cancer gene therapies that harness the power of a patient’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells, without harming healthy tissue.
“The Fairfield County Swim Across America event is blessed to have dedicated swimmers and volunteers who come back year after year and work so hard to raise funds for cancer research,” said Cristy Fraser, co-event director of the swim. “Peter Carlson, a Riverside, Connecticut, resident who leads Team Julian, which is in honor of my son Julian Fraser, an avid swimmer and All-American water polo player who passed away in 2017 from sarcoma, has participated in the swim for 16 out of the 17 years. Peter started as a boater and then started swimming. For the past several years, he has led Team Julian to be the number one fundraising team at the event - with more than 50 members, the team this year raised $101,598 with Peter personally raising $36,781. This is just incredible and such a testament to the power of teamwork and we are honored they are raising funds for cancer research in Julian’s name.”
Other top fundraisers include Team Just Keep Swimming that raised $30,249 and was led by Alie Hamilton of New Canaan, Connecticut; Team Colligan with $21,607, led by Julie Colligan of Old Greenwich, Connecticut, who has volunteered at the swim for all 17 years as the volunteer coordinator, who helps direct the hundred volunteers and makes sure the swim goes off safely - and her husband Rob, who has swum all 17 years. For the Colligans, the swim is a family affair with their two teenage children also participating each year. Team Blue Wave Swim came in at $17,888 and is made up of members of the Darien High School Blue Wave Swim Team, which has been led throughout the years by Darien swim coach Marjorie Trifone. This year the team was captained by high school swimmers Molly Baum and Erin Luecke of Darien, Connecticut, who are also members of the Swim Across America Fairfield County Junior Advisory Board. Coming in as the fifth top fundraising team was Team Tyler at $12,310 and led by captain Lindsay Tyler, who grew up in Darien, Connecticut, and formed the team in honor of her -mom Nancy, a long-time fixture at Fairfield County swim meets and who sadly passed away from breast cancer in February of this year. The Greenwich YMCA Marlins were also a top fundraising team raising $10,704 and were captained by Riverside and Greenwich, Connecticut, residents Isadora Nassa and Ryan Browning.
Swim Across America Fairfield County would also like to thank other individual top fundraisers.n addition to Peter Carlson and Lindsay Tyler, the top individual fundraisers included Michael Brock, of Old Greenwich, Connecticut, who raised $10.730 as part of Team Julian and in honor of his wife Shän, who was a long-time Swim Across America Fairfield County supporter and participant who sadly passed from colon cancer in January; Catherine Desmarais of Ridgefield, Connecticut, who raised $6,916 and swims each year in honor of her -mom, who is a lung cancer survivor; Lucy Kappel, of Pelham Manor, New York, with Team Aquatic Avengers who raised $5,942 in honor of her father-in-law Alan Kappel, who lost his battle with prostate cancer in 2022; and Torsten Sippel of Old Greenwich, Connecticut, with Team Sportsplex Swim Across America, who raised $5,597. Torsten first participated in the event last year and was the “Rookie of the Year” with his fundraising success.
Swim Across America is a national organization and offers open water and pool swims in 24 communities, from Boston Harbor to under the Golden Gate Bridge. Its roots however are firmly anchored along the shores of Connecticut. Darien, Connecticut, resident Matt Vossler and his lifelong friend and college roommate Jeff Keith founded Swim Across America in 1987 swimming in Long Island Sound. That first swim endured the challenge of a sunken boat, but the organization, throughout its 36 years, has gone on to raise more than $100 million in the fight against cancer. Swim Across America’s funding of clinical trials on a national level has helped contribute to four FDA approved life-saving immunotherapy cancer treatments: Yervoy, Opdivo, Tecentriq and Keytruda. Just last summer, very exciting news about a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering was published in The New England Journal of Medicine that showed a 100 percent success rate in treating patients in a phase 2 clinical trial for advanced rectal cancer with dostarlimab, an immunotherapy treatment in a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering that was funded by early-stage grant funding from Swim Across America.
To support Swim Across America Fairfield County, donations are still being accepted and can be made at swimacrossamerica.org/fc. To host a pool swim, water polo match, golf tournament, rowing competition or any other event in support of Swim Across America, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Jenifer Howard @JHPR for Swim Across America Fairfield County.