Members of the Georgia swim team will swim across Lake Lanier in Atlanta to help raise money for cancer research on Saturday at 5:30 a.m. Over 1,000 people are expected to gather for the event.
Swim Across America (SAA) is a nonprofit organization that started seven years ago. It raises money for cancer research and prevention. The event will include over 200 volunteers and 600 swimmers, many of whom are collegiate swimmers from the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Emory.
Nicole Schwartz, the co-event planner for SAA has been working on the event since last November. Her involvement began four years ago when Schwartz’s daughter, a year-round swimmer began swimming with SAA.
“The first year I was there, I was so incredibly impressed by the whole event, how uplifting it was that I wanted to get more involved,” Schwartz said. “I never thought I would be quite as involved as I am this year, but I am super happy to be doing it. It’s such an awesome event it gives me goosebumps talking about it.”
Collegiate swimmers, coaches and year-round younger swimmers will all choose between a mile-long event, a 5K or an angel swimmer role, defined as an experienced swimmer who can help other swimmers complete their event.
Veronica Burchill, a senior from Carmel, Indiana, is excited swim for a good cause on Saturday. Burchill explained that each Georgia swimmer is required to raise $100, but this year she tried to raise more than that.
“It's a really great day full of support, accomplishment and just fundraising success,” Burchill said.
Last year, Burchill swam with an 11-year-old-girl whose mom had cancer.
“You always hear about these stories in the news, and I think it's important to recognize those people and come together, because when everyone comes together it is so powerful,” Burchill said. “Everyone has been impacted by cancer in some way, either a family member, friend, friend of a friend.”
The fundraising goal for the event is $600,000. The SAA currently has raised about $500,000. All the money raised in Atlanta goes to the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
“We’re giving back to something greater than ourselves,” Burchill said.
Burchill said that raising money and raising awareness is the overall goal of the event.
“It unites us as a team because we come together to try and make the biggest impact we can,” Burchill said. “We swim for UGA, that’s already a big deal to do and a great accomplishment, but this event is an even bigger step because we are able to actually make an impact.”
Assistant head coach Stefanie Williams Moreno will also be hopping in the lake to swim the mile race on Saturday. Moreno swam at Georgia from 1999-2002 and helped the Bulldogs win three NCAA titles.
“Practices can be hard, weight room can be hard, school can be challenging, but it is important to appreciate everything we have," Moreno said. "And the swimming community is very small, but you can impact a lot of people.”