This is my third year participating in Swim Across America. We spend months fundraising and training for the event. The day of the swim we get up at 4:00 am, drive into the city, register, get on a trolley in the dark that takes us to a boat that drives out to the Golden Gate Bridge as the sun rises over San Francisco. At some point, we gather in the hull of the boat for directions and moments of reflections. Each year people stand up and tell their stories - doctors talk about the kids they have diagnosed this year, parents talk about the children they have lost, young people talk about teen-aged years spent in the hospital and how thankful they are to be alive and swimming today. There is always someone who stands up somewhat unexpectedly to speak about a new cancer diagnosis. This is a time of lots of tears and lots of hugs.
The speeches on the boat and the ones that follow at the awards ceremony on land remind me why I do this event. Swim Across America SF raises money for UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and the Swim Across America Laboratory for Pediatric Cancer Research in Oakland. The doctors and the research teams that benefit often swim along with us. They are the ones coming up with new ideas, testing new treatments and hopefully saving young lives. I can't do that. But I can raise money to help them.