Swim Across America: Swimming to Save Lives

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Karen Kruger prepares for Swim Across America 2013.
Karen Kruger prepares for Swim Across America 2013.

On Saturday September 21, Towson resident Karen Kruger is going to swim a mile to raise money for the Swim Across America Lab at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.  Like many participants who have been affected by the disease (directly or indirectly), it will be an emotional day for Karen.  Not only is the 56-year-old a cancer survivor who was treated at the Kimmel Cancer Center, but she is also going to meet—for the first time—the man that made her recovery possible.  Her bone marrow donor.

Two years ago, the wife and mother was fighting for her life.  After six months of grueling chemotherapy sessions to treat multiple myeloma and plasma cell leukemia, a very rare and aggressive form of leukemia, her only chance at recovery was a bone marrow transplant.   A one in 540 chance.

 

Halfway across the country, Lucas Townsend, a 19-year-old at the time, had just enrolled in the bone marrow registry in his hometown of Marshall, Michigan.  It was a simple test, just a swab from his cheek.  But that one brave decision would forever change two lives.

 

Today, Karen is happy, healthy and in remission and has – literally – been given a second chance at life. And Lucas is finishing college.  A true hero.  So the next time you hear someone say, “Teenagers!” in that exasperated tone we all know too well, think of Lucas.

 

“When I found out I was a match, I was so happy I had the chance to help someone suffering,” says Lucas.  “And the fact I was basically her last hope made me want to donate even more. I never had any doubt that I was doing the right thing.”

 

It’s inspiring stories like Karen and Lucas’s that make the crowds turn out for Swim Across America, the open water and pool swim fundraiser for cancer research held in Baltimore since 2009. This year, the pool swim will take place on Saturday, September 21 at 3 p.m. at the Meadowbrook Aquatic and Fitness Center in Mount Washington.  The open water swim will take place the following day on Sunday, September 22, at 8 a.m. at High Tide Farm, formerly known as Waltjen-Shedlick Farm, in Pasadena.

The fundraiser will include swimmers of all ages and skill levels including ABC2 News’ Meteorologist Wyatt Everhart and former Olympian Theresa Andrews, who is this year’s Honorary Chair.

 

Since coming to Baltimore, SAA/Baltimore has donated more than $1.1 million for the Swim Across America Lab at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.  The Lab recently received worldwide attention for developing a genomic-based test for ovarian and endometrial cancers, using fluid collected from routine pap tests. The new test, called PapGene, is undergoing further testing, but promises to pioneer the use of genomic-based screening tests.

 

“Swim Across America/Baltimore is the perfect storm of excellence – supporting swimming in Maryland, cancer research at Johns Hopkins and benefiting patients worldwide,” said William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D. and director of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. “Because of Swim Across America’s focus and tradition of supporting innovative cancer programs, our physicians and scientists are working on some of the toughest cancer problem out there—from finding better, earlier detection tests to creating more personalized treatments for all types of cancer.”

 

“The  Baltimore swim is one of the fastest growing events in our history,” said Janel Jorgensen McCardle, president and CEO of Swim Across America.  “Baltimore swimmers are incredibly focused, enthusiastic, and 100% committed to what we are trying to do.”

 

Swimmers of all ages will partake in the one-mile pool event with those 18 and under committing to raise $125 each, adults $250, and teams of five or more $3,000. Swimmers for the open water event are asked to raise a minimum of $500 in donations for individual participants, $3,000 for teams.   Open water swimmers will be able to take part in either a one or three mile course.
To learn more about the Swim Across America/Baltimore, make a donation and/or register to swim or volunteer, please visit http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/Baltimore

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