Emma Bryan put on a bathing suit and cap this morning, warmed up and
Today, she swam in open water, for her grandmother, her aunt, and her elementary school friend — all people she has lost to cancer.
This was the fourth year that Emma, who is a freshman at Wharton High, participated in the Tampa Bay Swim Across America event, which raises money for cancer research and took place at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg.
Participants chose between the half-mile, 1-mile or 2-mile distance, Kayakers and paddleboarders also participated.
“Every year I raise around $1,500,” she says, “and 100 percent of that goes to cancer research centers, so I know it’s going to a good place.”
Proceeds from the Tampa Bay event go to the Moffitt Cancer Center and pediatric cancer research at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
Emma is just one of many kids and teenagers participated in the event. They swam together as part of the Greater Tampa Swim Association (GTSA), and their coach encourages them to participate.
“It’s great for our kids to help out their community and do things that are outside of themselves,” says Julia Lamb, who is the owner and head coach of the New Tampa branch of GTSA (there also is a South Tampa branch). “The kids really take ownership of it. They register and create their own page and go out and get donations.”
The fund-raising goal was of $20,000.
Julia said Emma and the event’s team captain, Brooke Harrigan, did a great job and thought outside the box to raise money, such as selling bracelets and hosting spirit nights.
Brooke is a senior at Brooks DeBartolo High School who lives in Live Oak Preserve. She says she loves participating, in part because she knows that all expenses for the event are covered by sponsors so that 100 percent of the donations made to her and her team go directly to Moffitt and Johns Hopkins.
Moffitt Cancer Center acknowledges on its website that, since 2012, the Tampa Bay Swim Across America event has raised more than $1.1 million to fund Moffitt’s Adolescent and Young Adult Program activities and has supported clinical trials for more than 40 patients with stage 4 metastatic melanoma.
Julia adds that Johns Hopkins just enrolled its first patient in an immunotherapy trial that was specifically funded by Swim Across America.
The swimmers all believe that their fund-raising efforts are making a difference in the lives of those who are affected by cancer.
“When I swim at the event, there’s a list on my arm of who I’m swimming in memory of or in honor of,” says Brooke. “Every year I add to that list. It’s bittersweet to know another person’s been impacted by cancer, but it’s one more person I can impact through this swim.”
Swim Across America is a national organization that started with a single event in Nantucket, MA, in 1987, and has grown to 20 open water swims and 100 pool swims across the country this year.