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Boaters and swimmers unite for fundraising

Approximately 160 swimmers and 103 boat captains began their day at 5:00 a.m. Aug. 2 filled with excitement and anticipation. They were ready to take on the Long Island Sound for this year’s SWIM Across the Sound Marathon, a fundraising event to help individuals and families battling cancer.

Although the forecast called for rain and wind before clearing late afternoon, there was no telling whether sea conditions were going to remain acceptable enough for going the entire 15.5 distance from Port Jefferson, N.Y., to Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport, Conn. 

As time went on, however, the chopping waves steadily increased.

By 10:30 a.m., sea conditions worsened and became a cause for concern. Marathon Director Liz Fry and Safety Officer Joe Savino agreed it was time to turn to the contingency plan designed for ensuring the safety of all participants.

The swimmers were pulled from the water and brought back to Captain’s Cove by their escort boats, along with the medical, safety, law enforcement, and other specialty boats and volunteers. Although disappointed, there was a common sense of exhilaration for the opportunity to get this far.

Despite disappointment in the weather, there was a uniform sentiment of relief and high regard for the officials who made the difficult decision to change course and turn to the contingency plan.

“It was absolutely the right call,” said Mike Herrington who was responsible for recruiting all the boats for the marathon.

By 1 p.m., the contingency course was set up in Bridgeport Harbor for swimmers to swim an equivalent amount of miles inside the harbor protected from the strong wind and waves they had just experienced. Boats aligned the course with officials, safety and medical personnel, and guides.

The SWIM continued on the alternative courses in Black Rock Harbor and ran for approximately three hours.

Each swimmer raised funds in order to participate in the SWIM, and all money raised go toward St. Vincent’s 45 cancer education, prevention, and assistance programs. 

Over the past 27 years, what the SWIM has been able to accomplish for those suffering from cancer – and for their families – is a true testament to what commitment, determination and community support can achieve. Since that first marathon raising $5,000 back in 1987, the SWIM has grown into a series of year-round events raising more than $2 million annually – which helps support the 45 different programs that touch the lives of more than 30,000 in the state of Connecticut.