The Swim Across America event raises funds for the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT), the nation’s only non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to funding cancer gene therapy research. ACGT is based in Stamford and its headquarters are the finish line for the swim. Participants must register at www.swimacrossamerica.org by clicking on the Greenwich – Stamford Swim link.
“One hundred percent of funds raised this year by the Greenwich - Stamford Swim will be donated to ACGT,” noted Matt Vossler, chairman of the board of Swim Across America and a Darien, Conn., resident. “Due to the incredible generosity key donors and sponsors, we can say that every penny donated to Swim Across America will bring us that much closer to a cure.” Vossler went on to note that 2010 is Swim Across America’s 24th year of raising funds for cancer research and the events have grown to hold dozens of swims all over the country, each with its own distinct personality. “You can swim under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, or swim with NESCAC conference swimmers at Nantasket Beach, or even with Olympians in Greenwich and Boston Harbor,” said Vossler. “Swim Across America began as a grassroots organization with events developing organically. Now, those events each raise hundreds of thousands of dollars; money raised is given to local beneficiaries, which happen to be some of the best in the world. Now, we are bringing Swim Across America events to the whole country, from coast to coast.”
Founded in 1987 by Connecticut natives Matt Vossler and his lifelong friend and Boston College roommate, Jeff Keith, the first Swim Across America event in Connecticut was the first swim in the area dedicated to raising funds for cancer research. Swim Across America is now a national organization that rallies fundraising efforts for cancer research, prevention and treatment through open-water and pool swim events in cities such as Greenwich, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Nashville, New York, Providence, San Francisco, Seattle and other areas.
In the past three years, Swim Across America’s Greenwich/Stamford Swim has raised close to $700,000 for the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT) Young Investigator Award Grant program for treating brain cancer. The lead researcher and three year grant recipient on the project is Dr. Khalid Shah, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Shah is instrumental in exploring gene therapy alternatives for the treatment of brain tumors. With so much attention in the news about brain cancer recently, his work takes on a special urgency and there is great optimism that gene therapy will soon revolutionize treatment.
“It means a tremendous amount to Swim Across America to support the innovative and promising grants that the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT) funds with leading cancer researchers,” said Janel Jorgensen, executive director of Swim Across America and a former Olympic swimmer and Silver Medalist. Jorgensen grew up in Ridgefield, Conn., and spent her summers swimming in the water of Long Island Sound near Greenwich and Stamford. Jorgensen, like many of the participants, also has a personal connection to wanting to help find a cure for cancer, as she has had family members affected by the disease. “The clock is ticking to find a cure for cancer and for Swim Across America to be able to support an organization like ACGT, that is on the leading edge of finding a cure, is exciting.”
Returning this year as honorary co-chairs for the Greenwich/Stamford Swim are Olympic swimming champion Donna de Varona and husband John Pinto, Cindy and John Sites, Rueben and Arlene Marks, and Jonathan Sackler, all of Greenwich.
At age 13, Donna de Varona was a world record holder in the 400 Individual Medley and the youngest member of the 1960 Olympic Games U.S. Swimming Team, which competed in Rome, Italy. During her career, de Varona set 18 world's fastest times, and in 1964, she returned to the Olympics to capture two gold medals during the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Voted the most outstanding female athlete in the world in 1964, de Varona is undeniably one of the most decorated swimmers of her generation. She is an Emmy award winning sports broadcaster and is currently President of DAMAR Productions, a company specializing in sport documentaries, promos, event development and promotion. Donna's older brother David de Varona, is a cancer survivor, and she is devoted to the Swim Across America cancer campaign.
Swimmers from previous years included many recreational swimmers and several Olympic swimmers. In addition, a large contingent of swimmers were cancer survivors or those currently battling cancer, such as Old Greenwich resident and triathlete Karen Newman, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer; Nick Fernandez who swam with five of his family members who swam for Nick who has been treated for leukemia; and Roberta Bass, 58, of Greenwich, who in 2006 grappled with uterine cancer. Other swimmers are inspirations to everyone, such as Caroline Conrod of Greenwich, who at age seven in 2008, was the event’s youngest participant; and Swim Across America co-founder Matt Vossler of Darien who lost a family member to the disease.
Swim Across America has raised more than $30 million for some of the top cancer institutions in the country, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, UCSF Children’s Hospital, the Loyola Cancer Center, and the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT). With the help of hundreds of volunteers nationwide and many past and current Olympians, Swim Across America is helping find a cure for cancer through athleticism, community outreach and direct service.
The Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT) is the recipient of funds raised by Swim Across America. ACGT was founded by Greenwich residents Barbara and Edward Netter. ACGT believes that cancer gene therapy has the greatest potential to not only improve the quality of life of cancer patients, but to ultimately realize a cure for cancer.
The June 26 Greenwich - Stamford Swim Across America event will take place on Saturday, June 26. Each participant is required to raise a minimum of $500. Volunteer opportunities for boaters, kayakers and land volunteers are also available. For more information, visit www.swimacrossamerica.org or email Jacque Lang at Jacque@swimacrossamerica.org.
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