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Swimming for a cause with Carly's Crossing

The water was calm, the sun was out and everyone had wished they could jump into the water for a bit of a swim.

Yesterday was the official kick off press conference for Carly's Crossing. The event is celebrating its seventh year as an open water swim fundraiser for Carly's Club which benefits pediatric cancer patients and research at Roswell Park.

This year's event will be held on Sunday, Aug. 16 at Gallagher Beach, near the NFTA Small Boat Harbor on Fuhrmann Boulevard.

On hand to introduce this year's swim were Jeannine and Sean McNamara. Jeannine is swimming for the second straight year in honor of her younger brother, Sean, who is entering his second year of remission after being diagnosed with cancer at age 13.

"Two years ago, my brother was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Carly's Club was just great in helping us meet other families who were going through the same thing," Jeannine said. "He's been in remission for two years and I wanted to give back to people who helped us so much. Last year was my first time swimming Carly's Crossing and I back this year."

Sean celebrated the second anniversary of his remission last week.

"The event is so inspirational to the families and the patients," said Joe Zwierzchowski, founder of Carly's Crossing. "It really means so much to everyone."

There are three different events on Aug. 16 for two different open water distances. There morning kicks off with a timed 1-mile swim (for those who are a bit competitive), followed by the "non-competitive" 1-mile swim and then a 600-yard non-competitive swim. Swimmers in the "non-competitive" events swim in groups of four, are accompanied by a kayak and can proceed at their own pace.

Frankly, if you can swim you can do this event.

"I don't hesitate to say this is the safest open water swim you can do," Zwierzchowski said.

The water features around 50 kayaks plus lifeguards on surfboards plus underwater divers and support from the Buffalo Police Department and Erie County Sheriffs Department. And if a swimmer gets tired, a kayak will help bring the swimmer to shore -- there is no pressure to finish the course.

"If you were a swimmer but haven't been in the water in a few years, get in the pool a few times and sign up to join us," Zwierzchowski said.

From personal experience, this is a fantastic event for open water swimming. Fully supported and swimming with friends, the 1-mile non-competitive swim was actually enjoyable for me at last year's Carly's Crossing. It was my first try at the event and at the time the longest distance I ever went in the water. Upon a successful finish, my confidence in swimming and in open water got a huge boost.

There are times when a great training day and a great fundraising cause coincide. It rarely happens with open water -- and it's an opportunity too good to pass up.

To sign up for the event or to donate to a registered swimmer visit

On another note, the Journey to the Finish Line blog is en route to Lake Placid to take in the craziness that is Ironman weekend. Follow updates here and on Twitter.

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