Swimmers of all ages and abilities will take to Founders Park beach on Saturday, April 15 to make waves in the fight against cancer.
Swim Across America’s Florida Keys Open Water Swim returns to Islamorada for the second straight year, as swimmers take to the bayside waters for a noncompetitive swim. Participants signing up for the half-mile or 1-mile swim aren’t seeking a gold medal or top honors. Before they don their swim caps and goggles, swimmers raise money for cancer research and patient care programs.
Baptist Health South Florida’s Miami Cancer Institute (MCI) is the beneficiary for the second year in a row. Susan Latham, Islamorada resident and event organizer, said the money raised will support phase one of cancer research at MCI.
Raising $110,000 in its inaugural year, Latham said, the second annual swim hopes to raise $150,000. A little over $60,000 was raised as of April 4.
“Swim Across America has donated over $100 million across the country,” Latham said. “The funds will support initial research on ideas about medication and forms of treatment.”
Joining swimmers, volunteers and spectators at this year’s charity swim are several Olympians. Each Swim Across America event sees some of the top U.S. swimmers who assist participants in the event and make themselves available for photo opportunities.
“They donate their time, which is very cool,” Latham said, adding that they’re awaiting confirmation on the Olympian swimmers slated to be at the event.
While many of the swimmers are swimming to support loved ones and friends who have been touched by cancer, some of the other swimmers themselves are cancer survivors. One of those survivors is 68 year-old Glenn Latham. He is celebrating 11 years being cancer free this year — and he is one of the event directors for the Swim Across America open water swim. His inspiring story spans multiple generations of his family all fighting cancer.
“Fortunately, due to lots of prayer, family support and modern technology I am in remission,” Latham said. “As a cancer survivor, I subsequently was involved in several cancer causes prior to moving to the Keys. My love of swimming led to the chance meeting with a local swimmer and Swim Across America board member who shared the mission of Swim Across America. My wife and I were immediately interested, and together we decided to organize a Swim Across America open water swim in the Florida Keys.”
A local cancer survivor who was treated at MCI will speak to kick off the charity swim. Latham said a booth will be available for swimmers to write whom they’re swimming for this year. Boats and paddle boards will be situated alongside the course to ensure each swimmer’s safety.
Latham said the idea of bringing a charity swim to the Keys originated from a group of women tennis players who started swimming for additional exercise at the beach and jetty at Founders Park. The group eventually opened the swim opportunity to other people, and that’s when she met Bob Coakley. His involvement with Swim Across America goes back some 30 years.
“He joined us swimming and talked about Swim Across America. He’s been to a majority of the venues, and he said our venue would be the nicest by far,” Latham said.
Roughly 60 swimmers signed up for the second Swim Across America open water swim in Islamorada. Those wishing to swim or donate to the cause can visit swimacrossamerica.org/floridakeys.
Swimmers will check in on Saturday, April 15 at 7:30 a.m. The swim begins at 9:10 a.m. with a post-event celebration set for 10:15 a.m. Participants 18 years and older are asked to raise $500, while those under 18 are encouraged to raise $200.