Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Swimming Across America in WA

On Saturday, Sept. 12, at o-dark-thirty, I headed south from Everett to Lake Washington to Mercer Island's Luther Burbank Park for the first annual Swim Across America event as a fund-raiser for a beneficiary which this year was the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

The sun seemed to take forever to get up over the horizon, and before it actually made it, the first swimmers began to arrive to get registered and marked up. A team of volunteers, of which I was one, were already in place to blow up balls, prepare the coffee, cut up the bagels, hand out t-shirts and answer questions.

One of the swimmers is someone I know very well, and I had not advised her that I was going to be a volunteer, and she was significantly surprised to be standing in line for a t-shirt and see me standing there. I was there to support the swimmers, a family member who has cancer and to memorialize those who have recently died from Multiple Myeloma or another cancer.

About 90 men and women signed up to swim the two-mile route under the Mercer Island Bridge on the western side of the island and another 35 or 40, including a number of teens, were ready to swim a half-mile course. Each of the entrants had to raise $500 as part of their "training" for the competition along with other physical conditioning activities.

The efforts of these swimmers raised $65,000, along with other donations, putting the total raised near $100,000 for the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. The "prayer flags" were comments by various people about the event or about their motivation to swim the distance.

When the bus came to pick up the two-milers, the sun was shining brightly, there was little wind and the water was 69 degrees. They hit the water at 8 a.m. and the first swimmer, a guy, ran up on the beach at about 8:37 a.m.!

This was just after 8:30 a.m. when the half-milers got the gun and they were off, swimming furiously.

I took a break from being a spectator for a walk around the park and discovered a dew-covered spider web plus loads of blackberries ripening, and they were a tasty breakfast treat!

The announcer proclaimed a new wave of arrivals from the 2-mile group and I found the best spot to watch was up in the lifeguard's chair. My hat is off to all the swimmers who churned up the water for at least an hour; a few took longer than that to complete the course.

The last of the half-milers came in as well, moving the event from being spectators to the animated talk between swimmers and supporters about the event. Friends and relatives began arriving to share in the post-event breakfast and awards ceremony.

Young boys and girls were now bored with the adult conversation and quickly found a way to entertain themselves - a dried up fountain offered an opportunity to discover what it was supposed to be doing, where the water came from, where the water would go. I was fascinated by their youthful conclusions and research as they worked together easily, boys and girls, to reinforce their ideas.

One enterprising young lady had seen a number of bottles of water not being taken by the adults, and she offered to make several trips from the dry fountain to the source to carry more than a few bottles of water back to be poured into the dry spot to see if it would either generate more water or when overflowing would run down to the outlet. As I was her temporary "caretaker," at the request of her mother, I let her make a few trips without comment. Finally, after 9 bottles of water had been 'sacrificed,' I had to be the spoil-sport and stop her, partly because her parents were getting ready to leave. She was quick to think of another way to get the water... go to lake and fill up the bottles she already had! I hated to

be the limiter of her fun and stopping the energy of youthfulness.

The lazy sun was now heating up the day without a cloud to slow it down. People were leaving the park, heading off to other weekend duties or adventures. I had been a part of something powerful and moving... and my thoughts went out to the individuals who had committed to the swim and why they did it. How many times did their arms reach into the water to pull them along over a two-mile area? How many kicks did it take to get to the end? It was impressive and thought-provoking. And because of each one, combined into many, SCCA would have some additional research funds perhaps to help solve the mysteries of MM. Like this last shot suggests, a victory over cancer for good!


  1. This sounded a really fun day and some lovely photos which gave us a great idea of all that happened. I particulary loved the flags a very nice idea. What a great funraiser1

  2. Thanks, Susie... it was a fun day, and I actually took over 150 photos, but my blog doesn't have space for them all!

  3. Being one who was there, I can say you captured the day beautifully. So many people you many meanings, so much love. Peace to you and all.