SOUTHINGTON — For David Malsheske, St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound, run by St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation in Bridgeport, has so many purposes.
The SWIM marathon, which began 31 years ago, raises over $2 million dollars annually for cancer education, screening and prevention programs as well as for individual patients with their specific needs in their battle with cancer.
Last year, Malsheske, a physician’s assistant at St. Vincent’s, participated in the 2017 SWIM Across the Sound along with many of his co-workers. His team captain, Kim Adler, a cancer patient, had put together a team of people who had helped with her recovery after she was diagnosed.
However, this year, Adler had a recurrence with her illness, making her unable to swim and support a team.
In her honor, Malsheske started a team comprised of himself, his son Jack and several other members of the Southington High School boys swim team. Together, they will take on the 15½-mile relay across Long Island Sound.
“I wanted to carry on the tradition for Kim and I wanted to make sure that we kept the team going,” Malsheske said. “Kind of doing it in her honor and in honor of a few other people that we know that have had a cancer diagnosis.”
This year’s event is Saturday, August 4 starting at Captain’s Cove Seaport in Bridgeport. Joining Malsheske and his son Jack are Evan Bender, Brendan and Brian Egan, Kyle Buchanan and Taylor Heidgerd.
“It’s a minimum swim of 15 minutes each,” said the elder Malsheske, who will be participating in his third SWIM Across the Sound. “Anywhere between a 15-minute to 30-minute swim. So, if the boys are feeling good and they want to go longer than 15 minutes, then they give a thumbs-up in the water and they keep on cooking. That’s what I’m hoping for, I’ll do 15 and they can carry this old man across the Sound.”
Last year, while competing in the Corporate Division, Malsheske’s team finished in first place thanks to the performance of Jack.
“It was an amazing experience,” Malsheske said. “We had a team kind of all full and situated, but somebody backed out with two weeks to go before the event. Our team captain asked if anybody knew of any swimmers that would be willing to swim. Jack was 14 at the time, so I asked, ‘How old do they have to be?’
“He had just finished his summer season of swimming and he was all tuned up and ready to go. So, it was really cool to see him. It was a really proud-dad moment. He carried our team because he was all trained up and he was by far our strongest swimmer.”
That special moment led to a desire to compete in the event together again.
“My son and I were disappointed because we had such a great experience last year,” Malsheske said. “I realized I knew a few swimmers that might be interested in doing the event and I talked it up over the winter season and, fortunately, it struck up some interest with Jack’s teammates at school and I was able to put a really good team together.”
Malsheske and his crew are looking to raise $7,500, which is the amount necessary to participate in the traditional team relay. As of Monday, they had raised $4,895.
On Wednesday, Aug. 1, they will hold a fundraiser at Kinsmen Brewing in Southington from 6-10 p.m. The event will include a pizza buffet, raffle and gift baskets for $20. Supporters can also pledge at svmcf.convio.net.
“Now that we have all the kids together, we had a team meeting a couple weeks ago and now I’m in a group text with all the high school swimmers,” Malsheske said. “They said the other day, ‘Oh, if we just get one extra guy we’ll be competitive; we can win this thing,’ and I’m like, ‘Win this thing? I’m just doing this to survive.’ But they want to be competitive this year and I think we have a really good chance.”