Tag Archive | "Swim Across America"

A Swim to Save Lives

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By Mara Certic 

Hundreds of people are expected to show up to Fresh Pond in Amagansett on Saturday, July 12, in their bathing suits, trunks and goggles for a swim in aid of Fighting Chance, the cancer support group.

“Almost everything we do is fundraising for our community,” said Jim Arnold, one of the 10 officers in the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue, which is hosting its fifth annual swim in conjunction with Swim Across America this weekend.

Swimmers must raise money in order to partake in the event; children under 14 must raise a minimum of $300 and those 15 and older must get pledges for at least $500. According to Mr. Arnold, however, over the years, each swimmer has managed to collect an average of $1,000 apiece for this swim, all of which goes to benefit Fighting Chance and cancer research.

“Pretty much everyone has a story about how cancer has affected their lives,” Mr. Arnold said. He added that this one athletic event has raised over $450,000 since its inception in 2010.

Participants of all ages can choose to swim the half mile, mile or 3-mile course. “This is one of the many areas in how accomplished our swimmers are,” Mr. Arnold said. “Our children are the youngest to start in the Swim Across America events.” He explained that there are over 40 Swim Across America swims throughout the country. “We have 7- and 8-year-olds swimming the half-mile in record time,” he said.

Saturday’s swim, he added, is not competitive. Swimmers vying for a title or prize can compete in the two races organized by Ocean Rescue this summer—the Montauk Ocean Swim later this month benefits the Montauk Playhouse and August’s “Red Devil” Swim raises funds for the East Hampton YMCA Hurricanes Swim Team.  Both of these events are timed.

“If we lived on the mountains in Vermont they’d be racing down hills in record time,” he said. The very high standard of swimming might also be attributed to the Junior Lifeguarding Program organized and taught by members of the organization.

The very popular youth program for children aged 9 to 14 attracts approximately 300 kids a summer to beaches in East Hampton, Amagansett and Montauk. The summer-long program is taught by Ocean Rescue members and certified ocean lifeguards and is designed to make children more comfortable in the water, to teach them water safety and to instill among them a sense of camaraderie. “They make lifelong relationships,” Mr. Arnold said.

The volunteer organization trains and tests all of the guards, Mr. Arnold said. They hold CPR classes and hold lifeguarding tournaments. “Our little community puts forward one of the highest achieving teams” at the Lifeguarding National Championships, he said. “We’re rated right up there with Santa Monica; they have about 1,000 guards to our 60.”

The first incarnation of Ocean Rescue was the Dory Rescue Squad, a group of dory boat fishermen who realized that there was a need for a group to respond to water-related emergencies.

When that group eventually disbanded, a group of local surfers and lifeguards formed the current organization as it is today. “We’re all leftover lifeguards,” Mr. Arnold said of the organization’s members. “We’re the masters, if you will.”

In addition to responding to 911 calls and spearheading educational programs, these maritime maestros and mavens also guard all of the triathlons and paddling events in the area, including Sag Harbor’s “Paddle for Pink,” which raised $1.1 million for charity last year. “That blows us away,” he said. “That was phenomenal.”

The group is also responsible for one of winter’s most highly anticipated East End events: the Polar Bear Plunge. For a meager fundraising fee of $30, participants get to welcome in the New Year by jumping into the water at Main Beach in East Hampton—and they receive a free embroidered winter hat.

With promises to have five members at any nearby water emergency within five minutes, Ocean Rescue comprises residents dedicated to giving back to the community by saving lives, volunteering their time and supervision and educating the next generation of heroes who keep swimmers safe.


Take Battle Against Cancer to the Water

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By Emily J Weitz

Cancer is a vicious beast that virtually everyone has faced in some way or another. But for all the destruction that cancer has caused, it has also had a way of bringing out the warrior in people. This weekend, Swim Across America takes place here with the Hamptons Open Water Swim. This national organization has found a strong foothold here with representative and cancer fighter Wendy Tarlow who has been involved with the swim since it started on the East End three years ago.

“I got involved on a minor level,” she says, “because it was helpful to me. I wanted to get involved with something positive.”

In a fight against an elusive, ever-changing enemy, cancer patients often feel that so much is out of their control.

“This is something I can control,” says Tarlow, who lives in Sag Harbor. “The [Swim Across America board] doesn’t know what fuels this massive enthusiasm. But I say it’s something that’s driving me, fueling some intention towards wanting to get better and make a difference.”

Tarlow has worked with a variety of cancer organizations, but she’s passionate about Swim Across America because all the proceeds go right to research, and that’s what’s going to save lives.

“It’s about cancer research,” she says. “This money is going directly to hospitals and patients. It’s not going to CEO’s pockets. Everyone who works for Swim Across America is a volunteer.”

As a result of the successes of Swim Across America, the organization has been able to fund groundbreaking research projects.

“The swim has its own lab at Sloan-Kettering,” says Tarlow. “They came out with the first melanoma vaccine last year, and the hope is that they’ll come out with less toxic drugs. This is truly giving me some hope, some amount of control to feel like I’m a part of research on some level.”

Tarlow has been called “Tornado Tarlow” by the people at Swim Across America because of her success in fundraising and raising awareness. She was asked to be part of their Executive Committee that is involved with swims across Long Island.  She is investing in building the Hamptons Open Water Swim, because she believes it could become a 1 to 2 million dollar fundraiser in the years to come.

Wendy is not the only warrior on Team Tarlow and Hand. More than 40 people will be swimming for the team this weekend, and they’ve already raised over $50,000. Tommy Hand, formerly of Sag Harbor, was a friend of Tarlow’s growing up, and they were diagnosed with cancer at the same time.

“When I was diagnosed,” says Hand, “I went right to the American Cancer Society and started doing volunteer hours.”

Before he got sick, he valued volunteering. But once he was diagnosed, he really began to understand what it was to need help.

“At some time,” he says, “we all need it, and if you don’t put some money in your bank it may not be there when you need it. I think if you build up your karma, or your good acts, I don’t think you’ll be left alone.”

Part of it is having the support of the community around you so you don’t go it alone, says Hand. But the other part is making an impact.

“You want to leave something behind,” says Hand. “You want to leave that you were a good person. Then you never die. Maybe you taught someone about their life through your life, and then they teach someone else. By making an impact, you live right on here on Earth, by living through others.”

The Hamptons Open Water Swim will take place this Saturday, July 7 from 6 to 10 a.m. The Swim starts and ends in Amagansett at Fresh Pond Beach. There is a half mile swim, a mile swim, and a three-mile swim. You can sign up the day of the event or in advance at www.swimacrossamerica.org. Adults 18 and over need to raise (or donate) at least $500 and swimmers younger than 18 need to raise at least $300.

On Sunday evening, July 8, Tommy Hand will host a casual potluck barbecue at Long Beach where people can drop a few dollars in a bucket to support cancer research. All are invited to bring a dish and a lawn chair and meet the community to support each other.

“I want everyone in one place at one time,” he says. “I want to show everybody that their help has made a difference, that I am still around. I want everyone to know each other like they used to and help each other like we should.”

It Takes a Village-7/5/12

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The people in this village are amazing. They really are. While it’s easy to forget that fact in the midst of our harried and hurried lives in which we find ourselves rushing to get to work, avoiding the crowds or getting our children to focus on cleaning their rooms, there are people here who constantly remind us of the importance of community — especially during tough times.

No one embodies that sentiment better then Wendy Tarlow and Tommy Hand, two Sag Harbor natives who both know the struggles of cancer personally. Yet in the midst of their own battles, both have chosen to join the wider fight against cancer by actively participating in fundraising efforts like this weekend’s Swim Across America to raise money for all cancer sufferers.

In fact, Wendy, a.k.a. “Tornado Tarlow” and her team have become a fundraising force to be reckoned with in recent years and Tarlow’s personal ongoing dedication to the Swim Across America organization has been remarkable and unwavering. Her childhood friend, Tommy, who has given back as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society, is part of Wendy’s fundraising swimming team now, and even flew up to Sag Harbor from Florida, where he now lives, so he can take part.

Hand notes how the support of community not only helps those suffering through tough times feel less alone, but it also goes a long way towards making a lasting impact on the lives of others. It’s a legacy that shouldn’t be underestimated — just look at how 12-year-old Katy Stewart, who died of cancer in late 2010 — still makes an impact in the form of the many fundraising efforts that continue in her name.

For Hand, this sort of community involvement through thick and thin is what Sag Harbor is, and has always been, about. On Sunday evening, a casual potluck barbecue on Long Beach will provide an opportunity for all of us to pause in our busy lives, stop by and say hello and thank you to Tommy and Wendy and all those folks who are doing their part. And while you’re there, drop a few bucks in the bucket to support their fundraising efforts.

After all, it’s the reliance on friends, family and neighbors that helps us get through everything. The ups, the downs … the good times, the bad … this thing we call life.

Swimming for a Cure

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When Wendy Tarlow her partner, Claudia Patino Tarlow, welcomed their son Logan into the world in the spring of 2009, life was never more perfect for the Sag Harbor couple. A few months later, however, life would become all the more precious.

After battling with medical issues for the better part of three years, in July of 2009 Wendy was diagnosed with Follicular Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“Everything went from being perfect — living in Sag Harbor, buying a house from my dad, being a mother, exactly where I had always wanted to be — to boom, cancer,” said Wendy.

So she began a slew of grueling treatments in an effort to beat her cancer, drawing on the support of her family including her young son during her battle.

“I don’t think I would have made it through the last three years without him,” said Wendy. “He is a constant source of strength.”

Wendy has also found strength in fighting for other cancer survivors — not only in a quest for a cure, but for less toxic treatments as well to fight the disease in its many facets.

An advocate and administrator of the Beautiful and Bald Barbie movement, which successfully lobbied for the creation of bald Bratz and Moxie Girl “True Hope” dolls as a source of inspiration for children with cancer, Wendy also became involved with the Sag Harbor not-for-profit, Fighting Chance. Founded by Duncan Darrow in 2002, Fighting Chance was the first free cancer counseling and resource center on the East End and it provided Wendy with support during her battle with cancer. Fighting Chance also proved to be a source of inspiration for the former fitness trainer with a knack for website development.

While at the not-for-profit, Wendy happened across a poster promoting the first “Hamptons Swim to Fight Cancer,” a Swim Across America event organized by the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad.

Because Wendy was still reeling from treatment and unable to compete, Claudia quickly jumped at the opportunity to swim on her partner’s behalf and Team Tarlow was born.

“What is great about Swim Across America is it is the huge national organization with a number of events across the country and all of the money goes directly to research,” said Wendy.

The swim, which will be held this year on July 7 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. starting at Fresh Pond in Amagansett, offers swimmers the chance to compete in 3 mile, 1 mile and ½ mile courses. Swimmers fundraise by collecting pledges from residents and businesses and swimmers under age 18 must raise $300 to compete, while those over 19 are required to raise $500. Beneficiaries of the swim include Fighting Chance, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Children’s Hospital Montefiore, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

Team Tarlow raised about $7,000 its first year, adding to an overall fundraising goal of close to $100,000. Team Tarlow continued to grow in 2011. This year, Wendy and fellow Sag Harbor resident Melissa Ann Mitchell built a website for the event as well as a fan page and have been marketing Swim Across America through social media sites like Facebook.

Team Tarlow has also evolved into Team Tarlow & Hand, with Sag Harbor native Thomas Hand throwing his support behind the group.

“Tommy and I grew up together,” said Wendy. “I was a summer person from across the street, but we were both diagnosed with cancer at the same time.”

While Hand lives in Florida, he frequently visits the East End and has dedicated himself to helping fundraise for the “Hamptons Swim to Fight Cancer,” said Wendy. “The weight of his support is palpable.”

Wendy is hoping this year she is strong enough to complete the swim herself, but knows if she is not she will have an army of friends, family and community members behind her.

“We have 45 swimmers on our team right now,” said Wendy. “Last year we had seven. I owe a large part of this to Tommy.”

The event has already raised $55,079 of a $125,000 goal, with Team Tarlow & Hand raising over $26,000 on their own. But for Wendy, there is no end in how large this fundraiser could become and certainly no end to the kind of critical cancer research it supports.

“What I love about this and why I am involved is because almost 100 percent of the money raised goes directly to cancer research and everyone involved is a volunteer,” said Wendy. “For me, this is looking for a drug that can save lives.”

Team Tarlow & Hand will host a fundraiser at B. Smith’s in Sag Harbor on June 14 from 6 to 9 p.m. For more information on the swim, to sign up, donate or volunteer, visit http://www.teamtarlowsaa.com.