Swimming the Bay to Raise Funds to Fight Children’s Cancer


More than 250 swimmers, including several former Olympians, multiple cancer survivors and UCSF faculty members, braved the chilly waters and powerful currents of San Francisco Bay this weekend to raise funds for children’s cancer programs.

The eighth annual “Swim Across America San Francisco to Fight Cancer” was held on Saturday, October 5, and included 1.5-mile and a 0.5-mile swims from the Golden Gate Bridge to Crissy Field.

The event is the main funding source for UCSF’s Survivors of Childhood Cancer Program, which helps pediatric cancer survivors maintain physical and emotional health for the rest of their lives — through clinical care, education and research.  The event also provides funds for Oakland Children’s Hospital.

“When I was born, a cancer was almost a uniformly fatal diagnosis,” said Dr. Robert Goldsby, director of UCSF’s Childhood Cancer Program. “Now, we cure about 75 percent of children with cancer, a remarkable accomplishment. However, that is not enough.

On the Friday before the swim, eight Olympians met with young patients at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, where the patients shared their Olympic-themed art projects, and participated in a game of Olympic trivia.

The Olympians who participated included Heather Petri (2012), Ericka Lorenz (2004), Craig Beardsley (1980), Mike Bruner (1976, 1980), Sean Nolan (2000), Susan Heon Preston (1984), Allison Wagner (1996), Mike Kiedel (2000) and Dana Kirk (2004).

The Swim Across America San Francisco Bay swim started in 2006, and is part of the Swim Across America (SAA) national organization (swimacrossamerica.org), which has been raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events since 1987.

The San Francisco event has grown substantially over the last eight years, raising close to $500,000 this year, compared to $60,000 in its first year, according to Goldsby, who has participated as a swimmer six times.

“Today, I swam for the 27 children treated at UCSF who died this year because of cancer,” said Goldsby. “The intensity of the pain suffered by families is indescribable.  I have witnessed this pain far too often and wish this never happened to anybody. We need to do better, and together we can make a difference.”