Approximately 160 swimmers and 103 boat captains began their day at 5 a.m., ready to take on the Long Island Sound for this year’s Swim Across the Sound Marathon, a fundraising event to help individuals and families battling cancer.

Among them were Bill Strickland, Victoria Batchelor, Colleen Carroll, Christopher Fracker, Joshua Pavel and Delaney Walsh, all representing the Trumbull Pisces relay swim team.

Although the forecast called for rain and wind before clearing late afternoon, there was no telling whether sea conditions were going to remain acceptable enough for going the entire 15.5 distance from Port Jefferson, Long Island to Captain’s Cove in Bridgeport.

Yet, all were optimistic, and the Marathon began as planned with a light drizzling rain, fairly calm waters at the start.  As time went on, however, the chopping waves steadily increased.

By 10:30, sea conditions worsened and became a cause for concern.  Marathon Director, Liz Fry and Safety Officer, Joe Savino agreed it was time to turn to the contingency plan designed for ensuring the safety of all participants.

The swimmers were pulled from the water and brought back to Captain’s Cove by their escort boats, along with the medical, safety, law enforcement, and other specialty boats and volunteers.

Although disappointed,   there was a common sense of exhilaration for the opportunity to get this far. Despite disappointment in the weather, there was a uniform sentiment of relief and high regard for the officials who made the difficult decision to change course and turn to the contingency plan.

“It was absolutely the right call,” said Mike Herrington, who was responsible for recruiting all the boats for the marathon.

By 1 p.m., the contingency course was set up in Bridgeport Harbor for swimmers to swim an equivalent amount of miles inside the harbor protected from the strong wind and waves they had just experienced. Boats aligned the course with officials, safety and medical personnel and guides.

Participating in the contingency plan was optional, and some swimmers and captains elected to celebrate what they had accomplished to that point.

Whether they went on in the contingency course or not, there as a palpable sense of pride at Captain’s Cove by all who had been part of the event for a cause bigger than themselves.

The Pisces surpassed their team fundraising goal of $7,500 and the donations are still coming in through their donation page at swimacrossthesound.org.

Each swimmer raised funds in order to participate, and all money raised go toward St. Vincent’s 45 cancer education, prevention, and assistance programs.

Lyn McCarthy, Executive Director of St. Vincent’s Foundation, said, “We are forever grateful to all the swimmers, boat captains, crew, volunteers, donors, and all who are involved. Their generosity and commitment is astounding. Each person began the morning with such determination, and despite having to go to the contingency plan, so may have indicated that they plan to return next year. On behalf of St. Vincent’s Health Services and Foundation, thank you.”

Over the past 27 years, what the SWIM has been able to accomplish for those suffering from cancer — and for their families — is a testament to what commitment, determination and community support can achieve.

Since that first marathon raising $5,000 back in 1987, the Swim Across the Sound has grown into a series of year-round events raising more than $2 million annually, which helps support the 45 different programs that touch the lives of more than 30,000 in the state of Connecticut.

People fighting cancer, some without insurance or money for food, utilities, medications or housing, now have somewhere to turn.

Swim Across the Sound provides screening and support services to our community, ranging from prevention to survivorship programs.

It offers a significant safety net to our region by providing one-on-one financial assistance to cancer patients regardless of where they receive their care.