Through rain, shine and storms first time marathoners and experienced swimmers from Connecticut and across the country rose to the challenge of the 29th annual St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound, to benefit those battling with cancer and their families.
The overwhelming crowd of supporters broke into applause as the first team of swimmers, “Black Rock Yacht Club Barracudas,” based in Bridgeport, crossed the finish line.
Katy Luchansky of Shelton, a former Ohio State swimmer, lead the pack as she reached the platform and cheered with her teammates.
“It feels great, it was my first time doing it so it was a lot of fun,” said Luchansky.
For eight hours teams followed Luchansky and were greeted by cheering crowds before the race was called at 4:30 p.m. because of lightning.
“It’s always great to win but the reason for the event is about taking care of folks,” said her teammate Gregory Sargent from Fairfield. “So that’s what we are focused on tonight.”
Around 169 volunteers and over 100 boats participated in the 15.5 mile marathon from Port Jefferson, N.Y. to Captain’s Cove, Bridgeport.
Dave Andrews, who raced for Fairfield YMCA has been taking part of the event for 14 years. He has competed in the challenge through over a decade of different teammates and weather. His team finished the marathon this year before the storm hit.
“It seems like everyone knows somebody who’s been affected by cancer so it’s just a good event and a great cause,” he said.
The event had also drawn in solo swimmers from out of the country with Sandra Ramirez Vinay from Mexico City, Mexico and Robert Kent from Oakville, Ontario.
One of the most influential groups that raced was the Gorton family who has reached out to five teams that incorporate four towns.
The mother, Ana Gorton from Trumbull, who is on the St. Vincent’s Medical Center Emergency team called Code Blue Fish will be racing with her future daughter in law, to her son Tom, Shannon Burke from Milford.
“I wanted to keep the team going that my son started, the security [of St. Vincent’s],” said Ana. “And it’s really just for the patients, when you work in the emergency department and you see the patients coming in after so many meetings you can treat them there but you want to do something to give back.”
Ana’s two sons competed in two different teams.
Her older son Tom Gorton, from Milford, swam with the Fairfield Police Department team he started to support a co-worker’s wife who was diagnosed with cancer.
“That really drove me to start talking to people within the department and immediately everyone was on board,” said Tom.
Her younger son Ryan Gorton from Trumbull started the EMS, emergency medical services team called Earn Money Swimming with Trumbull EMS responder James Koch. In addition to the Trumbull group his team has taken in Shelton EMS responders from Echo House.
“You know EMS in of itself for us is a brotherhood, we kind of work together as it stands and this is just another opportunity for us to come together between two departments, Shelton and Trumbull, and work together and do the fundraising and the actual event itself,” said Casey Quake, from Shelton Echo House.
Ryan said that his mom is his biggest inspiration for the marathon.
“She is like everyone’s mother at the EMS and the hospital, she is awesome,” said Koch.
St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound is a not-for-profit organization that supports those battling cancer and their families in the Greater Bridgeport community.
The teams that raced across the Sound raised money by getting pledges from donors.
This year the Swim raised $300,000.
“The money goes for financial assistance for people who are undergoing cancer treatments,” said Dianne Auger, President and CEO of St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation. “For example, you have cancer you can’t work, you’re in treatment, so we help you pay for your mortgage payment, we help you pay car payments [and] insurance payments while you focus on your recovery.”
The donations also go towards various support programs such as yoga, acupuncture and nutrition.
The Swim held a special place this year for Bob Carlson from Monroe and his daughter Karin Caves from Wenham, Massachusetts. The financial assistance and transportation the organization gave Joanne Carlson, Bob’s wife, who passed away this year, helped her and the family through difficult times.
“It was just one of those things where without the Swim and their help it would have been very difficult for us and stressful,” said Carlson.
The support the Swim gave the family inspired them to reach out and volunteer for this year’s marathon along with other family members, Jim Caves and John Caves along with Glenn Carlson and Glenn Carlson Jr.
“That’s why we are here to give back to the group that gave so much to us,” said Karin.
More information for the event is available at www.SwimAcrossTheSound.org and St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation at (203)-576-5451.