Outstanding Connecticut Philanthropists, Athletes Prepare to Swim Across America

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Eighth-annual Greenwich-Stamford Open Water Swim unites Connecticut residents in the fight against cancer.

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Every year, we are amazed by the heroic individuals and groups that swim in honor of a loved one or friend.

Across Connecticut, residents intent on conquering cancer are preparing to swim the Long Island Sound to raise funds, bolster awareness and seek out a cure at the eighth-annual Greenwich-Stamford Swim Across America (SAA) benefiting the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT).

On Saturday, June 21, hundreds of swimmers and philanthropists will unite in the war against cancer. The event will be located at the ACGT headquarters at 96 Cummings Point Road. ACGT is the nation’s only non-profit dedicated exclusively to cancer gene therapy, supporting world-class cancer research internationally. Last year, SAA donated $460,000 to ACGT – funds that finance life-saving doctors and research heralded by The New York Times.

Among those donning swimming caps and goggles this year are:

-- Nicole Graham, a Greenwich High School senior who just last year overcame a grave leukemia diagnosis and months of treatment. Nicole is also interning at ACGT this summer, working alongside the foundation to bestow grants upon the brightest oncologists around the globe.

-- Owen Brannigan, a Darien high school student and captain of the swim team who first participated last year. He swam in honor of his aunt – a breast cancer survivor – and raised $3,900. Now, Brannigan is returning – with 17 of his friends and teammates in tow, swimming under the name Team BlueWave. “We’re working toward raising $10,000,” Brannigan said.    

-- Chip Linehan, who previously participated in SAA events on the West Coast. Last year, he swam in Stamford on behalf of his friend Colin Campbell, an East Coaster battling cancer of the small intestine. Chip helped to found Team College, rallying friends and family who flocked from as far as Thailand, Singapore and Sweden. Colin recently passed away, and his loved ones are reuniting this year in his honor. “It’s going to be difficult, but we’re all committed to the swim,” Linehan said.

The Greenwich-Stamford swim – like all other SAA gatherings – is a uniquely local event. All funds support local foundations and initiatives, such as the Greenwich/Stamford-based ACGT, and 85 cents of each dollar raised at this event is donated directly to the cause.

“Our volunteers are critical,” said Matt Vossler, the Darien, CT resident who co-founded SAA in 1987 with friend Jeff Keith. Selfless swimmers and event coordinators have allowed the event to take root in major metropolitan areas around the country and raised more than $55 million in the fight against cancer. “We’re hoping to raise half-a-million dollars at this year’s Greenwich-Stamford event,” Vossler added.

“Every year, we are amazed by the heroic individuals and groups that swim in honor of a loved one or friend,” said Janel Jorgensen McArdle, president of SAA, an Olympic medalist and a Connecticut native. “This year we are encouraged to see even more people swimming for someone they love, and are also incredibly moved by the large number of cancer survivors we have participating.”

Participants are able to select their open water distance: .5 miles, 1.5 miles or 3 miles. Non-swimmers are also able to participate as boaters, kayaker or land volunteers. Each participant in the three swims is required to raise a minimum of $500 (swimmers under the age of 18 have a $300 minimum). SAA thanks the national and local sponsors who make this event a success, including Balance Bar, Chobani, Xterra, Richards of Greenwich, Classic Kids, LeTarte, Whole Foods, Donut Delight, Westy Self Storage, Poland Spring and Upper Crust Bagels.

What: Eighth-annual Greenwich-Stamford Swim Across America
When: Saturday, June 21, 2014 from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Where: 96 Cummings Point Road, Stamford, CT
Website: http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/greenwich
Register: Contact Jacque Lang at (203) 438-0313 or Jacque(at)swimacrossamerica(dot)org

About Swim Across America
Founded in 1987 by Connecticut residents Matt Vossler and Jeff Keith, Swim Across America is now the nation’s largest national non-profit that battles cancer through swimming. Its events – which include 18 open water swims and hundreds of pool swims annually – have raised over $55 million to combat cancer. Swim Across America relies heavily on volunteers, including swimmers and on-site professionals like EMTs, nurses and boaters, to facilitate events. All funds raised locally also stay local, supporting neighboring nonprofits and research and treatment efforts. Beneficiaries include Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT), Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital, Johns Hopkins Medicine’s Kimmel Cancer Center and other distinguished facilities.

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Kevin Zawacki
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