Wilton family swims to fight cancer

Wilton resident Jim O’Brien and his 27-year-old daughter Kristine swam with the Kicking Cancer for Karen, Chris and Friends team to help find a cure for cancer during the 12th annual SWIM Across America Greenwich-Stamford event on June 23.

Participants in the annual open-water swimming event make their way across Long Island Sound to help raise money for the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT), a Stamford-based foundation dedicated exclusively to funding cancer cell and gene therapy research.

The Greenwich-Stamford event is one of 18 annual nationwide SWIM Across America events. To date, SWIM Across America events have raised more than $75 million in the fight against cancer, with the Greenwich-Stamford event raising more than $3.4 million  in the past 12 years.

As of June 29, SWIM Across America Greenwich-Stamford had raised more than $380,000 for this year’s event, with $11,640 of that raised by Kicking Cancer for Karen, Chris and Friends.

The team, whose members swim in honor of loved ones who have battled and been affected by cancer, and is named after O’Brien’s wife, Karen, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2009 and entered remission seven years ago; and his brother, Chris, who died from a cancerous brain tumor in October 2011.

Other Wilton residents on the Kicking Cancer team include Emma and Ellen Holmquist and Jake and Lily Kealy.

The O’Briens have been participating in SWIM Across America for nine years. O’Brien’s other daughter, Caroline, also participates in the annual event but was unable to do so this year.

O’Brien said his family is “very involved in swimming.” Both his daughters swam for the Wilton Y Wahoos and on the Wilton High Schools swim team.

This year, O’Brien swam a half-mile and Kristine swam one-and-a-half. O’Brien said he usually swims a mile-and-a-half but cut it back this year due to a torn rotator cuff.

O’Brien said SWIM Across America is “great” way to help fight cancer, which “everybody’s been affected [by], one way or another.”

“One hundred percent of the donations go towards cancer research, and I couldn’t think of better way to spend a Saturday morning,” he said.

To learn more about SWIM Across America, visit swimacrossamerica.org.