Swim Across America makes waves at Chatfield

More than 250 people turned out to participate in the event set up to fight cancer

Posted 8/27/18

Lauren Alfino is just a little more stubborn than others. On an impossibly perfect Colorado day, hundreds of swimmers prepared for a dip in the Chatfield Reservoir Aug. 26. And Alfino, undoubtedly, …

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Swim Across America makes waves at Chatfield

More than 250 people turned out to participate in the event set up to fight cancer

Posted

Lauren Alfino is just a little more stubborn than others.

On an impossibly perfect Colorado day, hundreds of swimmers prepared for a dip in the Chatfield Reservoir Aug. 26. And Alfino, undoubtedly, would be one of them — even though she had a boot on her left foot.

The story of how the 22-year-old swimmer broke her foot pretty much sums up the story of who Alfino is: highly competitive and highly stubborn. For that story, Alfino seemed fit to jump to the conclusion:

“I set the world record for how fast you can go down the water slide,” she said with a laugh.

Alfino, of Aurora, was not going to miss this, the inaugural Swim Across America event in Colorado. The organization “makes waves to fight cancer,” but specifically, it raises money for the local Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Hospital.

More than 200 swimmers from around the metro area signed up to swim a course in the reservoir southwest of Littleton at either a 5K, mile or half-mile distances. Alfino, and her broken foot, were set for the half-mile.

To Alfino, the impediment was nothing. She’s proud of her stubbornness. It’s what allowed to her be there in the first place.

Alfino was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013, a cancer that starts in white blood cells. That May, she was completely cancer-free, but she never forgot what life was like 5 1/2 years ago. Now, she’s grateful any chance she gets to be in the water.

“When I got diagnosed with cancer, I continued to swim throughout my entire treatment,” Alfino said. “It was nice that I had some very supportive people in my life who didn’t question me, but supported all my stubbornness.”

Nicole Vanderpoel, the director of the Denver Open Water Swim, worried that if there would be one cloud in the sky during the event, it would be right above Chatfield Reservoir.

Instead, Colorado’s first Swim Across America event enjoyed one of the nicest days of the summer, clear for once of smog and haze to set the stage for an event months in the making. The Denver Open Water Swim for Swim Across America raised almost $200,000 for cancer research.

“We far exceeded anything we could’ve hoped for,” Vanderpoel said. “We’re overwhelmed with the support, the amount of swimmers and the sponsors. They all came through.”

The Denver Open Water Swim was the first Swim Across America event in Colorado, but Vanderpoel already has her sights set on next year.

“We’ve got work to do, and we are thrilled with our inaugural year and we celebrate that. We celebrate everyone here,” she said. “Next year, we’re just going to continue on the same path with the same goal, and that’s purely for the children.”

Hot air balloons floated high above the park as swimmers filed in, eventually by the hundreds, on Chatfield’s shore. And by the masses, 95 swimmers waded into the water before beginning their three laps for the 5K swim. Among them were 16 Olympians, including Missy Franklin, the five-time Olympic gold medalist and Regis Jesuit graduate.

With a beaming smile and water still dripping from her face, Franklin said meeting the children at the hospital was one of the most impactful events she had the opportunity to be part of.

“Actually getting to see what all of this is about and where all of this is going…it makes me speechless,” Franklin said.

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