Swim Across America Rhode Island

by The Cowl Editor on September 16, 2021


PC Swim Team Continues to Raise Money for Cancer

Liam Tormey ’22

For the past 12 years, Swim Across America has hosted an annual charity swimming event in Rhode Island. The organization, dedicated to raising money for cancer research at the Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island through swim-related events, has been around since 1987.

Providence College Swimming and Diving head coach, John O’Neill, has been a part of Swim Across America Rhode Island since the beginning. He was a part of the initial consultation to start it in Rhode Island.

“It’s a great organization to be partnered with,” O’Neill said. “The most well-known research centers in the country partner with SAA like Dana Farber, John Hopkins, and Sloan Kettering. The doctors and researchers I’ve met are fantastic.”

There are open-water swims all across the country, but the director wanted to open one in Rhode Island, O’Neill said, and from there, everything grew and he became a board member with SAA-RI.

O’Neill wanted the event to be open to as many schools as possible to help such a great cause. “I suggested we could expand the participation to college teams and we invited every college within an easy driving distance to come.”

Swimming and Diving athletes from schools like Brown University, Bryant University, Roger Williams University, the University of Rhode Island, and Providence College were all featured in the event.

Last Saturday, Sept. 11, at Wheeler State Beach in Narragansett, RI was the host of the 12th annual SAA in Rhode Island.

Coach O’Neill said, “It winds up being a celebratory day and the start of the college season.”

This is an important event that is not just about kicking off the college season. “The cause is still the cause,” as O’Neill points out. “There aren’t too many families I know who don’t have a cancer situation within the family.”

Being able to help out in any sort of way is important to O’Neill. “It wasn’t personal on my level, my family is all healthy, thank goodness, but we get into the extent we’re not unlike anybody else as we’ve had family members with cancer. Our team, our families, and our alumni have embraced this beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Friars Lacrosse helps out the Swim Across America fundraiser
Photo Courtesy by John O’Neill

In speaking about why O’Neill felt passionate about this specific method of service, he explained, “I felt very strongly about targeting an organization we can make a big impact on.”

Spreading the word has been the most beneficial way to receive donations for SAA. Athletes, families, and alumni register online and spread the word through social media and family members.

O’Neill wanted to find a way to keep his alumni a part of their alma mater. He said, “I wanted our alumni to be a part of something special. We’re bringing the Friar Family back.”

As of three days before the event, the Friars had already raised $53,000. Since the swim was founded, the Friars have raised over $260,000 altogether. The Facebook Fundraiser tool, along with Instagram and other forms of social media, have been key to raising awareness.

The day starts early for athletes, but “When the teams get off the buses and see everyone, it just becomes this electric event. You’ve been swimming with your teammates for a bit, but it’s like flipping a switch. The competitive juices come out and everyone’s energy is really high.”

Student-athletes will have an enjoyable experience while still bringing their competitive nature out. Even for alumni, the case remains the same.

“Although some will race, it’s not a race. A lot have been out of competitive swimming for a while, but they’re recreational health swimmers and it helps them to get going again.”

Last year, the event was canceled in-person at the beach due to COVID-19. However, the Friars still managed to find a way to keep it going in their own pool.

“We broke it up into pods,” O’Neill said, but “it wasn’t about money, it was just about staying engaged.”

Even in an off year, the Friars still managed to raise $25,000, which is an outstanding result considering the tough circumstances.

The seniors were the only class before Saturday who had experienced what they call “the beach.” Before the COVID year, the 2019 event was canceled due to a hurricane. This only meant the excitement and atmosphere surrounding being in person was so much higher this year.

On the day of the event, the athletes and participants in the event get off the bus and head to registration. Each registrar is given an ankle chip that tracks their swim both for safety and timekeeping while in the water.

Groups will go out in waves into the water and the event is then underway.

In asking Coach O’Neill how he and his team will continue to help the great cause after the event is over, he chimed in to say, “Our kids become walking billboards for Swim Across America. The towels they get, the shirts they get, they have an enormous amount of pride in.”

All across America, any location you can think of, holds a SAA event. The events begin in the spring and continue throughout the rest of the year. Last Saturday, both Rhode Island and Seattle hosted their event. 

Coach O’Neill was also appreciative of another team on campus: Coach Gabrielli’s Lacrosse team.

Gabrielli and his team were there last Saturday to help out in all the background scenes that make the event so successful.

“We couldn’t be more appreciative of them. Just a really, really great thing they’re doing.”

The team woke up very early and arrived at the beach before everyone else to help set up.

“It’s one thing to walk across campus and watch a game, but it’s a whole different story when they’re waking up at five in the morning to come and help us.” It’s the definition of Friars helping Friars, and Coach O’Neill couldn’t be more grateful for their support.

The event this past Saturday was blessed with beautiful weather and a perfect atmosphere to raise money for a great cause.

Swim Team Raises Money for Swim Across America

by The Cowl Editor on September 19, 2019

Friar Sports

By Meaghan Cahill ’20

Sports Co-Editor

Before the start of the 2019-2020 season, the Providence College Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Teams joined colleges all over the northeast to raise money for cancer research at Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island as a part of the 10th Annual Swim Across America (SAA) event.

In the ten years that SAA has taken place in Rhode Island, it has grown into one of the largest SAA events in the country.

Providence College Swimming and Diving Head Coach, John O’Neill, who is on the board for SAA-RI, said, “It’s extraordinary to think how important this swim has become to all those whose families are impacted by cancer.”

SAA was founded in 1985 as a sequel event to Run Across America. The first swim took place in 1987 in Nantucket, MA. Since then, SAA holds 20 open water benefits across the country and 100 annual pool swims. The overall mission of SAA is to “unite the swimming community by hosting benefit swims that raise money to fund life-saving cancer research and clinical trials.”

This year’s event, which was to be held at Roger Wheeler Beach in Narragansett, RI, had to be cancelled due to four to six foot swells and rip currents caused by Hurricane Dorian. However, the teams involved were still able to raise over $200,000 in donations.

PC raised the most money out of the 10 schools involved with a total of $34,407. PC swimmer Parker Cramer ’21 raised a total of $3,800, the third highest amount for the entire event and the most out of all PC athletes involved. In the 10 years that PC has been involved in the event, the swim team has raised over $220,000.

“We can all take pride as our event has topped the one million dollar mark for funds raised,” O’Neill said on the money raised for Women and Infants Hospital, one of the largest oncology services for women in the northeast.

PC Swimming and Diving Makes Waves to Fight Cancer

by The Cowl Editor on September 13, 2018

Friar Sports

Team Raises $30,101 for Cancer Research

By Liza Sisk ’19

Sports Staff

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.

swim across america providence college swimming and diving
Photo Courtesy of PC Swimming and Diving

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.”