Swim Across America

Swim Across America Inc., (SAA) is a nonprofit dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention, and treatment. It does so by hosting charity swims and donating the proceeds to a hospital. Since its founding, SAA has granted $75 million to fund cancer research and clinical trials. More than 100,000 donations a year are made to support participants in SAA charity swims to meet their fundraising goals. The proceeds from SAA charity swims are granted to fund cancer research at world-renowned hospitals such as Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Johns Hopkins.

Swim Across America, Inc.
FoundedJune 1987
Type501(c)(3) non-profit
Key people
Rob Butcher, CEO

Origins and mission


In the summer of 1984, childhood friends and recent college graduates Jeff Keith,[1] Matt Vossler, and Hugh Curran ran across the USA beginning in Boston and finishing spring of 1985 in Los Angeles. Keith, a survivor of cancer, had lost part of his right leg to cancer and their run raised over $1 million for the American Cancer Society.


Swim Across America's mission is to raise money and awareness for cancer research, prevention, and treatment through swimming-related events. Their motto is "Making Waves to Fight Cancer."


Swim Across America hosts three types of charity swims: open water, pool swims, and experiential swims.

Proceeds from open water swims are then donated to a local hospital. Typically, the open water swim distances are 1/2 mile up to 3 miles, with participants selecting a distance based on their ability and comfort level. Participants pay a tax-deductible registration fee that can range from $50 to $100 and then agree to meet a fundraising minimum typically of $400 by soliciting donations from their family, friends, and employers.

Pool swims are charity swims hosted by age group, high school, college, masters, summer league, and facilities that want to dedicate a day or practice to SAA. Pool swims do not have fundraising requirements the way open water charity swims do and typically are not connected to a local hospital. The proceeds from pool swims are "pooled" together and granted by SAA's beneficiary committee in $50,000 awards to SAA-approved beneficiaries.

SAA experiential swims give supporters the opportunity to fundraise for SAA by participating in events such as the English Channel, Catalina swim, and triathlon races. While SAA supports experiential participants with fundraising tools, SAA does not organize these opportunities.

Sponsors and partnerships

A number of sponsors play a substantial role in the execution of SAA events. Companies, including Chobani, Dunkin Donuts, Balance Bar, and Xterra Wetsuits, provide products at SAA events for swimmers and volunteers, as well as giveaways to encourage fundraising. Other companies, including Columbus Circle Investors, John Hancock, Lehman Brothers[2] and BTIG have partnered with Swim Across America and provided support through corporate sponsorship and company participation in swims.[3]


Swim Across America partners with Olympians in all aspects of the organization. Many, including Michael Phelps,[4] Jenny Thompson, Brooke Bennett, Craig Beardsley, and Ben Wildman-Tobriner, act as celebrity swimmers, honorary chair members, and volunteers during swimming events. Others have acted as board members, and some Olympians are present administrators on both the regional and national level, including Swim Across America's current president, Janel Joregensen-McArdle.[1]  Others still, such as Josh Davis,[5] Jeff Float, and Ray Carey, run SAA clinics to prepare athletes for swimming events.


Swim Across America uses donations to support patients in all stages of cancer, from early research to diagnosis to treatments to postcancer support. Beneficiaries include many of the most prestigious cancer research institutes in the US, such as the Perini Quality-of-Life Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute,[6] the DeMatteo and the Swim Across America laboratories at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center,[7] the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Baylor University Medical Center. Fundraising from SAA events is consistently donated to local beneficiaries, allowing participants to have a direct impact on their communities.[8]

In at least three cancer research and care institutes, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center at Loyola University Medical Center, and the Sidney-Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Swim Across America's donations have led to the establishment and operation of new research laboratories named for the organization.


  1. ""Jeff Keith's Road to Survivorship." Connecticut Challenge. Connecticut Challenge, Inc. Web. 8 Sept. 2011".
  2. Newman, Andy. "Chronicle." The New York Times 27 Aug. 1996, Style sec. The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Web. 8 Sept. 2011. <https://www.nytimes.com/1996/08/27/style/chronicle-055280.html?scp=3&sq=swim+across+america&st=nyt>
  3. http://www.swimacrossamerica.org
  4. Perl, Larry. "Cancer Patient Keeping Her Head above Water." Explorebaltimorecounty.com. The Baltimore, 13 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2011.<http://www.baltimoresun.com/explore/baltimorecounty/news/community/ph-ms-swimmer-0915-20110913,0,1827806.story>.
  5. Watkins, Mike. "CP Gives Back: Swimming to Raise Awareness and Money for Cancer." USA Swimming. USA Swimming, 4 May 2011. Web. 8 Sept. 2011.<http://www.usaswimming.org/ViewNewsArticle.aspx?TabId=1403&itemid=3320&mid=4631>
  6. Jeffrey, Cathleen. "Swim Across America Attracts 140 Swimmers to Nantasket." Wicked Local Hull. Gatehouse Media Inc., 17 July 2010. Web. 14 Sept. 2011.<http://www.wickedlocal.com/hull/sports/x1814121905/Swim-Across-America-attracts-140-swimmers-to-Nantasket#axzz1Y28Va3Kr>.
  7. "LoPriore, Danny. "Cancer Fighters 'Swim Across America'" The Daily New Rochelle. Mainstreet Connect, 19 July 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2011".
  8. Giglio, Rebecca. "Swim for Hospice of Rockland Raises Over $8000." NewCity Patch. Patch, 20 Aug. 2011. Web. 8 Sept. 2011.<http://newcity.patch.com/articles/swim-for-hospice-of-rockland-raises-over-8000>
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