Survivors, first selectman make a splash at SWIM event

Cancer survivors, volunteers and the first selectmen all got soaked at Fairfield University for the 27th Annual SWIM Across the Sound Aquathon and Walkathon last Friday, July 18.

People of all ages were invited to swim or walk as many laps or miles to show their support for the cause. All proceeds will be donated to cancer prevention and support programs at the St. Vincent’s Hospital Cancer Center.

The event began with speeches from officials, including Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Trumbull First Selectman Timothy Herbst.

Herbst presented Margie Reichman, Trumbull resident and dedicated organizer of the event since its inception, with a proclamation declaring June 18 the official Margie Reichman day. Reichman shed a few tears while grateful friends applauded. This will be her last SWIM Across the Sound as she will be soon be moving to Florida.

Reichman and Herbst then joined Michael’s Mermaids, a Trumbull-based swim team created by 11-year old Lauren Malatesta in honor of her uncle who survived cancer, Michael Murray, in a countdown to jump in the pool.

Michael Murray said he was appreciative of all who came out in support of the cause.

Murray and Lauren were joined on their team by chairman of the event and Lauren’s father, Raymond Giovanni.

“Ray really believes in the program and helping everyone with cancer,” Murray said.

Lauren said she shares her father’s mission.

“I started Michael’s Mermaids because I started thinking how nobody deserves to suffer from cancer, especially osteosarcoma, which Michael suffered from,” Lauren said. “I just want to help them. Not only does it hurt them, but their loved ones as well.”

Murray spoke of the importance of St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation’s work.

“As someone who has been afflicted with cancer, this is my way of giving back,” he said. “I was inspired by people like Jeff Keith and Ted Kennedy Jr. who suffered from cancer. They both taught me that cancer doesn’t necessarily have to be the end and I would have a lot to live for. They were both absolutely right.”

Lauren said her uncle was her inspiration.

“No one else in my family has suffered the consequences of cancer as much as Michael did,” she said. “He taught how to deal with things and not to give in.”

The SWIM Across the Sound Aquathon and Walkathon has been a long source of hope.

“There are swimmers who have come here in support since they were five or six years old, and now they’re coming here with their families,” Murray said. “It’s people like Lauren who make the event possible.”

“I would just like to give credit to some of our great sponsors,” he said. “Glendale Farms of Milford donated all the plants. Union Savings Bank in Monroe and Beauty Works in Branford have also done a lot.”

Also at the event was Chrystal Torres, a Trumbull High School graduate and cancer survivor who has worked with SWIM Across the Sound for many years.

Deborah Cox, Trumbull resident and director of development and community relations at the foundation, spoke briefly on the work SWIM Across the Sound does.

“It’s an umbrella program,” she said. “We have 46 programs for people battling cancer and their families. It’s education, prevention, and support groups.”

Cox made clear that anyone in the area suffering from cancer, regardless of their financial situation, may find help at St. Vincent’s.

“We had a cancer patient who couldn’t afford a wig, so we helped supply that. We also send mammograms out to the inner cities. Many of these people simply don’t have health care and we do the best we can.”

All are dedicated to SWIM’s goal of aiding financially struggling cancer patient. The organization has raised over $2 million in its nearly 30-year run.

Anyone interested in donating to SWIM’s cause can visit and click “Donate Now.”

“Every dollar counts, and for every dollar that counts, it’s a life that you’re saving,” Michael said. “I want to thank all of the volunteers and people who raised money to make this event possible. I hope to see the event grow for years to come.”