By Judy Tacyn
To say cancer affects everyone is an understatement. In the United States alone, the National Cancer Institute reported that more than 1.7 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2018, and approximately 610,000 Americans died of the disease. Worldwide, 9 million people die every year from cancer. After losing her grandfather to cancer, Old Mill High School senior swimmer Mia D’Antoni looked for a way to raise money to help researchers slow or eradicate the disease.
Last year, D’Antoni approached her swim coach, Ellen Hays, about raising money for cancer research. Hays, who has connections with Swim Across America, liked the idea and the duo introduced the idea to the Old Mill team. This year, D’Antoni wanted to do even more.
After coordinating logistics with Clayton Kulp and Krissy Albright from the Anne Arundel County Public Schools Office of Athletics, and Cheryl Hickox, Swim Across America volunteer event director, and making a pitch to all 12 county high school swim coaches, AACPS Swims for a Cure was planned.
Annapolis, Arundel, Broadneck, Severna Park, Southern and South River high schools met on January 22 at the Arundel Olympic Swim Center in Annapolis; Chesapeake, Glen Burnie, Meade, Old Mill, North County and Northeast high schools met on January 15 at the North Arundel Aquatic Center in Glen Burnie. The events were part of the first Anne Arundel County Swims for a Cure. Craig Beardsley, a 1980 Olympian, attended the events to share his gold medals and offer swim clinics with the teen swimmers. The teams raised more than $17,000 over the two-day event.
“We as a school have a large network of alumni, parents, families and friends who are affected by or live with different issues. By bringing attention to some of those and participating in fundraising and support events, we help foster a community that cares and lifts each other up,” said John Bachkosky, head swim coach at Severna Park High School. “Seeing a team (and county) that puts so much effort into an event like this one brings a lot of positive energy and is a great source of strength to those who struggle daily.”
Colin Dennis, a sophomore swimmer from Severna Park High School said, “AACPS Swims for a Cure brought all of the county swim teams together to swim for a great cause. It was fun to hang out with other teams and do stuff like water aerobics, relays and jumping off the diving boards, all while raising money for cancer research and treatment.”
Chloe Wright, Severna Park’s senior team captain, said, “I think it’s super important for teams and schools to come together because it helps people with all of these different interests and personalities to work toward a common goal. You get all of these people who have never even talked to each other working together and it’s really incredible to watch.”
Bachkosky emphasized that the SPHS teens enjoyed the relaxed fun day, which was a nice mental change of pace. “The swimmers enjoyed doing fun things with their friends from other teams as opposed to competing against them,” he said.
Wright concurs. “Spending time with my friends in a pool but not swimming laps isn’t something that I get to do often,” said Wright, “and having fun with the coaches and other teams in the county is definitely not something that I will forget.”
D’Antoni and Wright will graduate this year, but the SPHS team is already looking forward to joining forces against cancer next year.
“I am looking forward to next year’s event. I think it’s important that we show a unified front as a county for causes such as SAA,” said Bachkosky. “It shows great support and shows that there is more to sports than rivalries and competing. For some of my athletes who will go on to collegiate or professional sports one day will have a great example of using your platform to do good.”
Money raised will support research, prevention and treatment at the Swim Across America lab at Johns Hopkins’ Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The Annapolis Panthers were the top fundraising county swimmers having raised more than $7,319. The next AACPS Swims for a Cure is scheduled for January 2020.
Swim Across America first broke the water’s surface in 1987. Currently, Maryland and 25 other states have organized swims. There are now 20 open-water swims and 100 pool swims, annually. Since its inception more than 30 years ago, Swim Across America has raised $100 million.
The next open pool swim is July 13 at the Ulmstead Swim club in Arnold. The next open open-water swim is September 15 at High Tide Farm on the Magothy River in Pasadena. For more information, find swims, to donate or volunteer, visit www.swimacrossamerica.org.