It may not surprise you to hear that nearly 600 swimmers are expected to turn out for Maryland’s second annual Swim Across America event next Sunday.  What is surprising, however, is who comprises those 600 swimmers.  In addition to the many participants who swim on a regular basis, the event, which raises money for Johns Hopkins Hospital’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, attracts several noteworthy swimmers you might not expect.

Not long ago, we told you about the 14-year-old cancer survivor Jake Smith who is heading his Swim Across America team.  The Gilman 9th grader’s story is noteworthy not only because he is a survivor, but also because of his young age and dedication to the cause.  These two characteristics mark the story of another Swim Across American participant, Iris Rosenblatt.

This past winter, the 82-year-old Rosenblatt was diagnosed with two types of lung cancer.  The Baltimore-native had already defeated melanoma and lung cancer years earlier.  After battling her cancers for months, Rosenblatt is now preparing to swim a mile for Swim Across America, stating she swims “because this is such a good cause.”

Betsy Jiranek, co-chair of the event, notes that the various skill levels and diverse landscape of the participants is part of what makes the event a success: “One of the neat things about this event, there are certainly master swimmers, open water swimmers… but, for instance last year, my mother did the open water swim at age 74, she was the oldest participant in the open water swim, and never swam in open water [before].”

Millie’s Mermaids and Manatees is another eye-opening group of participants.  The team is comprised of people who, prior to the event, barely knew how to swim.  The team comes together 16 weeks in advance of the event and trains at the Michael Phelps Swim School at no cost to the participants.  According to Jiranek, “The whole idea was to get those who don’t know how to swim, don’t exercise and get them moving and get them involved.  In fact, there are instances of people who are survivors and have been off their high blood pressure medication or high cholesterol medication who have lost lots of weight through this program with the goal to be to participate in the swim.”

Schools are also participating with faculty teams, like the Gilman team which includes history, science, and English teachers, to name a few.

Last year, the event raised $465,000 for the Swim Across America Lab at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center — the most ever in Swim Across America’s 25 year history.  According to Luis Diaz, director of the Swim Across America Lab, the lab itself was a result of the tremendous success of the inaugural event and says that much of the funding for the lab comes from the event. 

The swim will take place in the Magothy River in Pasadena or at the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Club this Sunday, September 18th.  For more information or to participate, check out the Swim Across America website.