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Eric Vitcenda Jumped In to Bring Swim Across America to Denver and Is Now Making Bigger Waves in the Fight Against Cancer


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August 21 will be the 5th Annual Swim Across America Denver Open Water Swim

Swimmers and volunteers in the Denver area will be making a big splash on Sunday, August 21, at the 5th annual Swim Across America Denver open water swim. This swim raises funds for cancer research with the swim’s local Denver beneficiary the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Hospital Colorado. Throughout the nonprofit’s 35 years of holding swimming events across America, swimming has raised more than $100 million for cancer research. Denver has been instrumental in raising close to $1 million in the fight against cancer at its past four swims.

The Swim Across America Denver open water swim is fun for all ages with .5 mile, 1 mile and 2 mile swim options available. Registration is open for all swimmers and volunteers at swimacrossamerica.org/denver. The event is spearheaded by event directors Eric Vitcenda and his wife Jessica Reinhardt Vitcenda, along with Nicole Vanderpoel.

Eric was an Ironman competitor and was first introduced to Swim Across America in 2017 while competing in Maryland when he saw someone with a Swim Across America t-shirt on. “Once my new friend explained to me what Swim America was, from that moment, I knew my wife Jessica and I wanted to bring Swim Across America to Denver,” said Eric Vitcenda.

Eric says he was, “voluntold” he would handle the Swim Across America World – which includes setting up the Swim Across America big inflatable arch the swimmers travel through, the inflatable swim markers and other Swim Across America signage at the event. Little did he know what that would entail, or what it would eventually lead to. From the initial coordination of receiving, storing and transporting the Swim Across America site equipment, to camping overnight to ensure its security at the event site, there is no limit to Eric’s volunteering and support of Swim Across America.

“I learned to set—and reset—the event course, blow up the buoys, and ensure the Swim Across America arch was ready to welcome participants and provide a sunrise photo opportunity. I may miss out sometimes on the opening ceremonies because I’m down working by the water, but I’m driven to make the event as memorable as possible with the goal of increasing future participation and donations.  And everyone I meet each year and the friends I have made as a result, are my reward,” said Eric.

Eric has been fortunate enough to have a healthy and active life and was inspired by those around him going through their own battle with cancer to make a difference in their honor. His aunt is a breast cancer survivor, and in 2018, he lost a dear friend and coworker to cancer. He later found out that the coworker’s daughter had received treatment at Children’s Hospital Colorado, the beneficiary of Swim Across America Denver. This led Eric to become the captain of Team WorldPay Colorado, in their honor.

“I have committed myself to helping others accomplish their goals, and help raise awareness and money for cancer research, specifically for Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders,” noted Eric.

Eric has become a leader in his Denver community spreading the mission of Swim Across America and wanting to make a difference in cancer research. His wife Jessica is also a co-event director for the swim. Coordinating pool swims, rallying his company to get involved, donating platelets to cancer patients and even teaching Markus Jacobs, a Swim Across America Denver patient ambassador how to swim a week prior to last year’s event, are just a few of the activities Eric has taken on.

“We told Markus that a half-mile was quite an accomplishment for a non-swimmer and his exhausted smile when he came out of the water was the best reward for all my efforts throughout the year to support and promote Swim Across America,” said Eric. “I have used that day since to motivate me to work hard and find unique ways to make sure everyone across Colorado and the country know about Swim Across America and what has been accomplished over the past 35 years.”

Founded in 1987 and celebrating 35 years of #makingwaves to #fightcancer this year, Swim Across America is a national nonprofit organization that holds 24 open water swims across the country, from Boston to under the Golden Gate Bridge. The organization has an interesting history as it started with a sunken boat in Long Island Sound at its first-ever open water swim and has turned its passion for swimming and fighting cancer into $100 million that supports crucial cancer research throughout the country.

Swim Across America funding has contributed to four FDA approved life-saving immunotherapy treatments: Yervoy, Opdivo, Tecentriq and Keytruda, and supports research with more than 60 scientific grants funded each year. Just this past June, the very exciting news about a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering was published in The New England Journal of Medicine that showed a 100 percent success rate in treating patients in a phase 2 clinical trial for advanced rectal cancer with dostarlimab, an immunotherapy treatment produced by GlaxoSmithKline. The clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering was funded by early-stage grant funding from Swim Across America.

More than 60 scientific grants are funded each year by Swim Across America and there are ten dedicated Swim Across America Labs at major institutions including: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, John Hopkins Medicine Baltimore, Rush University Medical Center Chicago, Baylor Scott & White Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Dallas, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center New York, Nantucket Cottage Hospital, Palliative and Supportive Care of Nantucket, Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Lounge at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and San Francisco and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. More than 120 Olympians support Swim Across America, including Michael Phelps, Craig Beardsley (who is being inducted into the International Swimmer’s Hall of Fame this fall), Donna De Varona, Rowdy Gaines, Janel Jorgensen McArdle, Bobby Hackett, Ryan Lochte, Glenn Mills and many more.

In honor of Swim Across America’s 35th anniversary, the organization is showcasing “35 Stories of Impact” throughout its decades with a special website at swimacrossamerica.org/35. Eric Vitcenda is one of the “35 Stories of Impact” profiled.

To learn more about Swim Across America Denver or to register to swim, volunteer or donate for the August 21st open water swim, visit swimacrossamerica.org/Denver.


About Swim Across America

Swim Across America, Inc. (SAA) is dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events. With the help of hundreds of volunteers nationwide and past and current Olympians, Swim Across America is helping find a cure for cancer through athleticism, community outreach and direct service. To learn more visit swimacrossamerica.org/denver or follow on Facebook or Instagram @SAADenver or email Jessica Reinhardt Vitcenda at jessicadenver@swimacrossamerica.org or Nicole Vanderpoel at nicole@swimacrossamerica.org.

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