10,000 laps for cancer

Metuchen team raising money for cancer research in swimathon

BY ENID WEISS Correspondent

METUCHEN – They may not be literally swimming across America, but the Metuchen Municipal Pool swim and dive team is trying to swim 10,000 laps collectively to raise money for cancer research.

Nationally, the Swim Across America organization has raised more than $20 million toward cancer awareness, research and prevention. The organization is a sequel of sorts to Run Across America, founded in 1985 by two runners – Jeff Keith and Matt Vossler – who took eight months to run from Boston to Los Angeles.

This year marks Swim Across America’s 22nd anniversary with kayaking, boating and swimming events in lakes, rivers, ocean bays and pools.

On July 20, nearly 100 of the 220 members of the swim and dive team will swim laps – including a couple of 6-year-olds who are on the junior swim team. Even if they just paddle one lap across the pool, every lap counts toward the goal, said Melissa Karlovitch, president of the pool board. And some of the lifeguards at the pool, who aren’t on the team, have also joined the fundraiser.

Swimmers begin at 8 a.m. and keep swimming until 11:30 a.m. If they make the 10,000-lap goal, they’ll have swum a team total of 150 miles in under four hours. As of press time they’d raised a team total of more than $3,000 – with more donations coming in.

“It’s great for team spirit,” said Karlovitch. “It’s a way to get them to swim for more than just better times and ribbons. I’m having a great time. I get excited when I see kids get involved and wanting to do something like this that’s very selfless.”

Each swimmer has his or her own Web page linked to Swim Across America’s home page, where they’ve written personal comments and list their goals and donations.

Kerstin Wilcox has pictures of herself swimming and a Winston Churchill quote introducing her goal of swimming 140 laps, which would be two miles. She also notes that she’s swimming for a family friend fighting cancer and other friends, an uncle, a great-aunt and grandmother who died from cancer.

“I believe that curing cancer is necessary,” Kerstin wrote on her Web page. “It’s not enough to stand around wishing for it to happen. We have to do something.”

Karlovitch, whose 6-year-old son, Matthew, and 10-year-old daughter, Sara, are also participating, will swim a few laps, too. So far, the family has raised over $1,000.

Swimming is in the genes for the Karlovitch youngsters. Their grandmother, Dorothy Schilling, also on the pool board, was and still is a swimmer.

“I’m so lucky to share this with her,” said Schilling, who lives in Edison. “It’s a wonderful sport, and I’m so happy I can share it with my granddaughter.”

Schilling’s husband, Tom, is a six-year veteran of a cancer battle and is still fighting.

Getting involved was Sara’s idea. She saw an advertisement for Swim Across America on the paper cover of a dry cleaner hanger and asked her mom about it. The elder Karlovitch hadn’t heard of it, so Sara looked it up online.

Now the Karlovitch family hopes to make it an annual pool event.

Sara’s goal is three miles or 200 laps.

“I really can’t wait,” said Sara. “I hope I reach my goal.”

On her Web site she wrote about her goal and her aim to help cancer patients, some of whom have died, and some, like Schilling’s husband, who are still struggling.

She wrote, “Grandpa Tom, I am swimming for him because he is really special to me and he is funny.”

To donate or for more information, go to the team’s Web pages at swimacrossamerica.org, where their pages can be found in the National Pool Program under the Events menu, and are the “featured” event with a link on the bottom right corner of the screen.