Swim benefits cancer program

Six Olympians will team up with local residents for a 10-mile relay swim in the Bay next month to raise money for a UCSF program that offers assistance to child cancer survivors.

The Sept. 23 “San Francisco Swimming Relay to Fight Cancer” is making its Bay Area debut this year following numerous similar events on the East Coast and in Chicago.

Organizers expect about 100 local swimmers to each raise $2,000 or more, said Janel Jorgensen, Swim Across America’s executive director, a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic swim team and a silver medallist in the 400-meter medley relay.

All proceeds will benefit UCSF Children’s Hospital Survivors of Childhood Cancer Program.

“We pick research centers where our money goes the furthest and is the most appreciated. We are excited to be working with UC San Francisco’s Children’s Hospital in our first event west of the Mississippi,” Jorgensen said.

Participants in the five-hour relay event will each swim about two thirty-minute sessions, organizers said. During the event, scheduled to go from the Golden Gate Bridge to AT&T Park and back to Crissy Field, swimmers will be accompanied by a kayaker at all times.

One of the participants is Dr. Robert Goldsby, the pediatric oncologist who heads the childhood survivor cancer program.

“Part of the program is to educate the survivor and their families,” Goldsby said. “They’ve gone through something that not a lot of people have done.”

Survivorship rates for childhood cancer have increased dramatically in the past 36 years, Goldsby said.

“In 1970, it was almost fatal,” Goldsby said. “Today, 70percent of the kids [survive]. We cure most of them.”

Once the intense treatments are over, the children and their families need to know what the long-term impacts may be. For instance, a youngster may experience lung or heart injuries as a result of chemotherapy, Goldsby said.

During next month’s swimming relay, Goldsby will be joined by Aimee Sznewajs, the survivors program’s clinical coordinator.

Swim Across America is a Boston-based nonprofit organization that has raised more than $15 million toward cancer research. This summer it is hosting 11 events in five major metropolitan areas. The money raised stays in those areas: In Boston the recipient is Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; in New York, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and in Chicago, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Institute.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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