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Help Team SAA - Denver raise money for cancer research at Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Hospital Colorado - choose your own activity and goal to virtually travel through every SAA city and go "coast to coast" this summer. For $25, Get Registered Today!

Week 7 - Updated August 3rd - Return Challenge

  • SAA Denver funds benefit two research projects at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Hospital Colorado. The acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) research project, led by Drs. Amanda Winters, Taizo Nakano, and Craig Forester will bring new therapies into Phase 2 clinical trials for pediatric MDS and better define how to diagnose, classify and treat MDS patients. The tumor research project, led by Dr. Adam Green, will characterize the immune response to new brain tumors to better establish which types are amenable to cancer immunotherapy, and provide a new prognostic marker for these diseases.


Even in these uncertain times, we can continue making waves to fight cancer. As we navigate COVID-19, we've created a special webpage for event updates, helpful information and ways you can continue to support the mission of Swim Across America.

Welcome to the Swim Across America - Denver Open Water Swim. Swimmers of all ages and skill levels join together to support cancer research by swimming 1/2 mile, 1 mile or 5K open water swims at Chatfield Reservoir.

Swim Across America - Denver charity swim has granted over $335,000 the past two years to fund groundbreaking cancer research and clinical trials at Children's Hospital Colorado.

Unfortunately due to COVID-19 we are unable to host a live in-person event this summer. Alternatively, we will be offering a virtual 'Coast to Coast' Challenge as a way for swimmers, volunteers, family and friends to continue to support cancer research at Children's Hospital Colorado Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders.

If you have any questions about SAA - Denver, please contact Nicole Vanderpoel or Jessica Reinhardt Vitcenda.

Swim Across America, Inc. (“SAA”) is a nonprofit corporation recognized by the IRS with federal tax-exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (Tax ID #22-3248256)


Swim Across America-Denver will be participating in Coast to Coast - a virtual activity tracking and fundraising challenge where participants will work together to travel across America with a mission to support cancer research. For a $25 donation, participants can choose their own activity and goals that will support Team SAA-Denver travel across America. Activities can include a walk, bike ride, run, swim, SUP, kayak or any favorite physical activity in any safe location in your local community. You can even log cancer treatment or volunteer hours! The virtual route will travel to each Swim Across America open water event city (21 ‘stops’) for a 7,686 mile journey. Tracking will begin June 15th and ending August 23rd. We will all work together as Team SAA-Denver to travel coast to coast.


Questions about participating in Coast to Coast? All your answers can be found in Frequently Asked Questions.


The full course map and distances for all legs can be found here.


You can find some new and inspiring fundraising messages crafted for 2020 as well as shareable graphics for Instagram, Facebook and your Participant Center to boost your fundraising for the 'Coast to Coast' challenge here.



Registration and Fundraising:

To Join the Coast to Coast Challenge, there is a small personal DONATION of $25 to get you started, and while we will encourage you to fundraise, there is NO Fundraising Minimum to participate. We are all working together as an event to travel coast to coast, but you can still choose to register as an individual or as a part of a fundraising team. Teams can be an inspirational way to honor a loved one and motivate your family and friends to register with you!


Already registered for SAA - Denver? Great! No need to change your registration. You are already eligible to participate in the activity tracking challenge.


Note, Online Fundraising Pages on the SAA website are still available, and you can still use Facebook and other Social Media platforms to solicit additional donations. Proceeds from the challenge will support cancer research at Children's Hospital Colorado.


If this is your first time participating in Swim Across America or if you just need some tips to be a better fundraiser, click here. It will walk you through the participant center and teach you how to email donors, share on social media sites and download the fundraising app.

You may support the swimmer of your choice by making an online donation. Or you may send a check, payable to Swim Across America, to the address below:

Swim Across America - Denver
PO Box 370076
Denver, CO 80237

Make sure to include a note with the name of the swimmer you are donating to.


2016 Atlanta Map
L to R: Taizo Nakano MD, Amanda Winters, MD, Craig Forester, MD, Adam Green, MD

Standardizing Care for Pediatric Myelodysplastic Syndrome

Dr. Winters' research is focused on acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), which is a devastating blood disorder that inevitably leads to a resistant form of AML in children if left untreated. Even with bone marrow transplantation (BMT), optimistic outcomes yield only a 50% chance of survival. Little progress has been made to improve outcomes in more than 20 years and North America has fallen behind other international efforts to study pediatric MDS. As a result, the disease remains poorly understood in children and there is no expert consensus on diagnosis, classification, or treatment. Dr. Winters and her colleagues in the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, led by Dr. Taizo Nakano and Dr. Craig Forester, have 3 goals for standardizing the approach to children with MDS: (1) to understand the biology of MDS (that is, why the bone marrow doesn't work and why it tends to develop leukemia); (2) to be leaders in the United States in establishing diagnosis and treatment guidelines for pediatric MDS; and (3) to conduct a clinical trial of pre-transplant therapy for pediatric MDS to improve the current 50% survival statistics. The clinical trial will employ a standard-of-care drug for MDS, azacitidine, in combination with the drug venetoclax, which has shown very promising results in adult AML and MDS clinical trials and which is expected to allow more children to get to transplant with less advanced disease and with less chemotherapy-related side effects.

Brain Tumor Research Study

Dr. Greens’ pediatric brain tumor research study is using an understudied set of data in patients with pediatric brain tumors at Children’s Hospital Colorado over the last 20 years to study how these tumors interact with the immune system. Most patients have cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tested at diagnosis to determine if tumor cells have invaded into this fluid around the brain and spinal cord. Information about the makeup of white blood cells (WBCs) in this fluid is also obtained, but these data have previously gone overlooked. The study is looking at how the makeup of WBCs in the CSF of these patients correlates with their tumor type, presence of metastatic tumor, and long-term survival. The achievement of these aims will give us key knowledge of pediatric brain tumors that can be used to improve treatment in the future. First, understanding which types of tumors generate a robust immune response and which are more immunosuppressive, which will help determine how to use new cancer immunotherapy strategies optimally. Second, having another key factor in predicting patients’ likelihood of survival from their initial CSF results will help us better tailor treatment to be either less aggressive (to limit long-term side effects in lower-risk patients) or more aggressive (to increase survival likelihood in higher-risk patients) with their subsequent treatment.


The Swim Across America - Denver Junior Advisory Board is a volunteer group of select high school students chosen by their coaches to lead their school’s swim teams in participation, team-building and fundraising. To support their fundraising efforts and teams, or for interest in the Junior Board, email Nicole.


Olympians and special guests present at the 2019 SAA - Denver swim:

    Ashley Twichell
    George DiCarlo
    Haley Anderson
    Kara Lynn Joyce
    Lindsey Mintenko
    Missy Franklin
    Scott Usher
    Susan von der Lippe


Midway through kinde­rgarten, Teagan was struggling with weig­ht gain, sleeping th­rough dinner and felt tired all the ti­me without any answe­rs. Still, she continued to go to school and was her usual bubbly self. Her school nurse thought something was wrong when she saw Teagan's pale face and told her parents she should be seen by a doctor. After numerous vis­its to the Urgent Ca­re and no answers, she went to the emerg­ency room at her loc­al hospital in Cheye­nne, Wyoming. She was immediately refe­rred to Children’s Hospital Colorado whe­re she received the devastating diagnosis of Acute Lymphobla­stic Leukemia (ALL) and began her treatm­ent four days later. Her liver and spleen were so enlarged that she waddled arou­nd and she could hardly get in and out of bed without help. After six weeks of treatment and physical therapy, Teag­an was in remission and then back to sch­ool within three mon­ths of her diagnosis. Teagan finished her treatment in April 2017, and is now ca­ncer-free. Teagan has always kept a posi­tive attitude even through two and half years of chemother­apy, nausea, and fat­igue. Her most memor­able experience at Children’s Colorado was playing in the ar­ts and crafts area during her chemo trea­tments. Today Teagan is a cheerful, outg­oing, healthy 5th grader, proud member of her local swim team (b­ackstroke is her fav­orite stroke!), participates in 4-H archery, and loves to play with her family's new puppy. She sees her physician, Dr. Amanda Winters, regul­arly for clinic visi­ts. Teagan’s Mom, Er­in, shared “Dr. Wint­ers was absolutely amazing and was with us the minute we ste­pped into the emerge­ncy room at Children­’s Colorado and made sure we knew what was happening every step of the way.” Teagan is grateful to be alive and wants to share her story with other cancer pat­ients so she can rai­se awareness and help other kids and let them know they are not alone.


In the middle of her junior year of high school, Lauren was struggling with intense stomach pains causing her to stop eating and resulting in almost 20 pounds of weight loss while she was doing two-a-day workouts with her high school and club swim teams. After numerous visits to a local Denver emergency room, she received the devastating diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The pain she was feeling was a tumor in her small intestine, causing her intestine to slide into an adjacent part of her intestine (called telescoping/intussusception). Lauren’s parents brought her to Children’s Colorado where she immediately started her treatment under the guidance of Dr. Kelly Maloney. “When my family and I arrived at Children’s Colorado, I immediately felt comfortable which is important when going through such a tough time. Dr. Kelly Maloney was very supportive of my love of swimming and allowed me to race one last time before chemotherapy started. She was great in treating me, making my family feel the best they could during my care and followed my health closely post-treatment.” After 12 weeks of grueling chemotherapy treatment, including the loss of her beautiful long hair (that she dyed bright blue!), horrible migraines, and medications that caused symptoms of shaky hands and blurred vision, Lauren was in remission. Her most memorable experience at Children’s Colorado was when her grandma made a surprise visit to the hospital for her 17th birthday and took her to get gelato every day she was there. Lauren finished her treatment in April 2013 and is now cancer free. Exactly one year and one day after her diagnosis, she was swimming faster than she ever had and accomplished her goal of making the sectional qualifying time for the 1-mile freestyle swim!

Today Lauren is an ambitious, passionate, and intelligent young lady who started her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Colorado State University in August 2018. She aspires to be a marine animal veterinarian working with rescue, rehabilitation and release. Lauren swims because it has been the one constant in her life. She swam when she wasn’t sick, when she was sick and after she was sick. Swimming has always made her calm - very much like meditation. Lauren is grateful to be alive and hopes to inspire others through her story.


What started as knee pain turned into a nightmare for Markus and his family. After an X-ray revealed a mass in his leg, Markus was diagnosed with osteosarcoma a rare form of bone cancer. His family came to Children’s Colorado for a second opinion and immediately felt reassured that they would get the best care. To treat the cancer, doctors had to remove Markus’ leg at the knee. Markus opted to undergo a Van Nes Rotationplasty, a groundbreaking procedure that replaces the knee with the ankle joint from the amputated limb, which allows patients to retain more mobility

Markus’ surgery took place in July 2017. Although painful, the procedure was a success. Markus’ recovery was one of the most difficult parts of his journey, but he also remembers this time fondly. He was thrilled to wiggle his toes for the first time, and he passed the time by finding new ways to make his nurses laugh. After four days in the hospital, he was discharged the day of his 13th birthday. Once fearful, Markus is now stronger than ever. Markus was fitted for his prosthetic leg, and he’s looking forward to being able to run, jump and even play flag football again.

Markus continues to come Children’s Colorado for regular check-ups. During his many appointments, Markus loves meeting other cancer patients. He even formed an unofficial support group of fellow osteosarcoma patients, fondly nicknamed the “Osteo Club” by his nurses.

Today, Markus’ caregivers often ask him to speak to newly-diagnosed patients who are feeling helpless and afraid. Markus hopes to give other kids the same kind courage he found at Children’s Colorado.



















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