Locals swimmers set to return for Swim Across America fundraiser

BRYAN EATON/Staff photoNewburyport's Blakelee Greene, Elizabeth Brugger and Courtney Luck pose for a photo prior to a training session leading up to last year's Swim Across America event. Brugger and Luck will participate again in this year's swim for Team Goldman and Friends, which is currently the most prolific fundraising team in Boston. 

How do you prepare to swim across Boston Harbor?

“I’m buying a new wetsuit, for one,” laughed Amesbury’s Ben Siebecker.

Siebecker, alongside Newburyport residents Courtney Luck, Elizabeth Brugger, and Brian and Dennis Lucey, are preparing to take part in this Friday’s Swim Across America. The fundraiser for pediatric cancer programs at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and MassGeneral Hospital for Children involves a 22-mile relay swim starting at Boston’s Rowes Wharf. With each of the approximately 70 participants slated to swim four miles, it is a daunting, but meaningful, way to spend a summer evening.

Each of the local participants has their own ways of preparing and their own personal motivations for taking part. Siebecker is no stranger to long-distance swims, having swam Long Island Sound and the Chesapeake Bay when he was younger. What got him back into the water? The memory of his mother, who worked in cancer research and eventually battled the disease herself, and the current cancer fight of his father-in-law.

“I just thought it was time to give back to society,” said Siebecker. “I’m not working anymore, so I have more time for things like this. And Brian talked me into it.”

Brian Lucey is a big motivator not just for Siebecker, but other area swimmers taking part in Swim Across America. Lucey holds three University of New Hampshire school records, and still swims regularly out of the Latitude Sports Club in Salisbury. He has recruited several swimmers out of that club to his Team The Chum over the years.

Lucey and his brother Dennis became involved nine years ago after their mother passed away from cancer. Though he claims he is not a “big outdoor swimmer,” he uses his time swimming at Latitude wisely. When the weather takes a turn for the better, he swims at Lake Gardner in Amesbury and Joppa Flats in Newburyport.

“Getting in the water a few times a week is important, so you don’t hurt too much later,” said Lucey.

Preparing for her sixth Swim Across America, Luck also makes sure swimming at Joppa Flats is on her to-do list.

“One of my favorites (to swim) is Joppa Park at high tide,” said Luck, who was world-ranked in the 200-meter butterfly in 1991 and competed in the 1992 Olympic Team Trials. “We have about a two-hour window on each side. I swim a mile and a half.”

Luck did not get many opportunities to swim over the winter, and is recovering from two broken ribs suffered in April. But after both her father and uncle were diagnosed with cancer in the past year, she won’t let any of it keep her from Friday’s event.

“I generally don’t do a lot of swimming in the winter,” said Luck, who represents Team Goldman and Friends alongside Brugger. “I did so many laps in my earlier years. I think I was in the water twice total this winter. I work out other ways in the winter. I jump into the water as soon as the open water season begins.”

Each swimmer has to raise a minimum of $2,000 to participate in Swim Across America. Despite the event’s name, all money raised stays local, making it especially impactful for the participants.

“It’s unique in that the money goes to local resources,” said Lucey. “They focus on doing initial funding of studies that get picked up by bigger groups later on.”

The impact of their swim is what keeps Luck coming back.

“There so many people from so many different backgrounds with so many different reasons for participating,” said Luck. “We can come together and make such a difference in the lives of cancer patients. In one day, we can raise over $300,000 for Dana Farber. It is probably my favorite day of the year every year.”

If you wish to learn more about Swim Across America, or donate to local swimmers, visit Team The Chum’s page at https://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/OpenWater/Boston?team_id=20849&pg=team&fr_id=5095 and Team Goldman and Friends at https://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/OpenWater/Boston?pg=team&fr_id=5095&team_id=20772.