a group of people standing around each other
Jennifer Dutton embraces husband Andy upon receiving the torch.

Head of the local Fighting Manatees swim club, Rob Dixon, remembers the moment coach Jennifer Dutton entered the swimmers’ lives several years ago. The search for a coach was long, but it appeared to be worth the wait. 

“She brings us a sense of peace and love when we have our workouts. She can connect with anyone on any level at any time, and she knows what they need to hear or don’t need to hear,” he said. 

Dixon’s sentiments were shared with representatives of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, who took a break from the running to present Dutton with the torch bearer award and a medal during a March 7 ceremony at Founders Park’s Ron Levy Aquatic Center. This global torch relay for peace celebrates local heroes’ accomplishments while recognizing the unsung heroes who give back to their communities. The Peace Torch circled the globe for nearly 40 years, giving millions of people a chance to make a wish for peace.

At the Ron Levy Aquatic Center, Peace Run members from Canada and Ukraine, Hawaii and Orlando, Mexico and Kyrgyzstan joined Dutton and friends to present the award. One of the world’s best open-water swimmers, Dutton was only the eighth person to swim Switzerland’s Lake Geneva. She accomplished the swim in 33 hours, braving freezing cold water without a wetsuit. 

Islamorada swim instructor Jennifer Dutton receives the Peace Run torch bearer award on March 7 at the Ron Levy Aquatic Center at Founders Park. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

She was nominated for the 2021 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year Award for her long-distance swims. She’s conquered Switzerland’s Lake Lugano, Sierra Nevada’s Lake Tahoe, New York’s Lake George and Vermont’s Lake Memphremagog, to name a few.

The award also recognized Dutton’s masterful coaching of teenagers in the Boston area for two decades. She currently coaches adults who seek to improve their strokes at the Ron Levy Aquatic Center. 

“I’m inspired everyday by everyone I come into contact with,” Dutton said. “My coaching inspires me to do my swimming. I can’t do my swimming without coaching.”

Retired pediatrician John Weare is one of Dutton’s swim students. He told the group of peace runners and friends in attendance that Dutton is a tremendous person beyond swimming.

“She’s able to connect with everyone she meets on their level, and that’s a real tribute to her warmth and care for others,” he said. 

Andy Dutton, Jennifer’s husband, receives the Peace Run torch bearer award for supporting his wife’s open water swims.

Dutton wasn’t the only one who received the torch and medal. Her husband, Andy, was honored for supporting his wife in her open-water swims. He was surprised upon receiving the torch and medal. 

“Without a doubt it’s been a fun ride,” he said. 

The Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, founded in 1987 by Sri Chinmoy, is a biennial nonprofit relay which currently journeys through 160 nations. It is not affiliated with religion, politics or any commercial interest. It’s focused on fostering oneness in humanity, especially young people, with the opportunity to express their aspirations for peace and love for the environment through music, art, poetry and running with the torch. 

Over the years, a few luminaries who have held the Peace Torch include Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Muhammad Ali, Queen Elizabeth, Jane Goodall and Sting.

Maria Bagiotti, village parks director, was also honored by the group of peace runners with a certificate of appreciation.

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.