By Liza Sisk ’19
This past weekend, the Providence College Men’s and Women’s Swim Teams left the comfort of their home pool, the Taylor Natatorium, and braced the cold ocean current in the waters of Narragansett, Rhode Island. Their venture into the open water was motivated by their determination to raise money for cancer research.
On Sept. 8, the Friars participated in the annual Swim Across America (SAA) event. The race is hosted by the SAA organization as a fundraiser to support doctors with ideas to fight cancer who are struggling to receive funding for clinical trials and research. The organization holds races nationwide. The swim is open to athletes of any age and skill level and typically offers both a half mile and a 1-mile race.
This season, SAA hosted 18 open-water swims at locations across the United States. They also offer the opportunity for individuals to hold pool races to contribute to their cause.
The beneficiaries of the funds raised during the respective races are cancer research facilities in the direct community where the race took place. The goal of SAA is to “fund $100 million in the next decade, to speed up cures for cancer.”
Saturday’s event took place at the Roger Wheeler Beach in Narragansett. The Friars participated in the one-mile swim. This year, the event attracted over 600 participants, many of whom represented collegiate swim teams across New England. The Narragansett-based event raises funds specifically for gynecological and breast cancer research at the Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island.
Providence College has been participating in the event since its inaugural year nine years ago. Coach John O’Neill is on the commitee that brought the event to Rhode Island and is committed to cultivating it into one of the largest SAA events in the nation. Each year the team promotes the event amongst family and friends, and on social media, and where they raise money to contribute to research.
This year, as a program, the Friars was the highest fundraising team, raising $30,101 to support the local hospital. The swim itself collected $204,641 nearly reaching their goal of $210,000 with time still left to donate. In the nine years that the Friars have been involved with SAA, they have raised over $175,000.
The event not only attracted 600 participants, but four Olympic swimmers also made appearances at the race. Craig Beardsely (1980), Elizabeth Beisel (2008, 2012, 2016), Alex Meyer (2012), and Clara Walker LaMore (1948) supported the Rhode Island race and were available for photos and additional inspiration. These four Olympic athletes along with over 100 Olympians promote SAA events annually, generating awareness and raising donations for the beneficiaries of the races.
O’Neill made the following statement after the meet: “We would like to again thank the leaders of every college program for continuing to join us helping in the fight against cancer. The big winners on this day each year are the patients who will benefit from the outstanding doctors and research specialists at Women and Infants Hospital.”
Liam Straker ’19 is serving as a captain for the Friars. He reflected upon the significance of the program’s participation in such a powerful event and explained that “it’s important to take a step back and appreciate how lucky we are to have our health. It’s something I know I take for granted almost every day.”
Straker shared that the event is particularly important because “everyone’s life has been touched by cancer, so it’s really something that hits home for all of us.” Straker expresses his pride in the program for “making the commitment to this event year after year,” and is “grateful for the support [they’ve] received along the way.”