Midtown students participate in Swim Across America


Courtesy of Sarah Prevost

Seniors Prevost and Browning after competing in the 2021 SAA-Atlanta event.

Ellie Palaian

Since 2019, Midtown Swim has been involved with Swim Across America (SAA), a charity organization dedicated to funding cancer research, clinical trials, and patient programs by hosting charity swims. 

The SAA was founded in 1987, the SAA division in Atlanta (SAA-Atlanta) was founded in 2013. The SAA has different charity swims all over the US and each has different beneficiaries.

“In Atlanta’s case, our beneficiary is the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA),” Atlanta Co-Event Chair Allison Millsaps said. “But, for example, in Houston, the swim there benefits MD Anderson, and in Chicago, it benefits Rush hospital.” 

Millsaps is a volunteer for SAA-Atlanta and has been involved from the beginning.

“I started out being involved because the company I worked for at the time was one of the initial sponsors,” Millsaps said. “I have since left that company, but I stayed involved because it’s just an organization that I’m really passionate about. And it has been just a great thing to do and a very fulfilling activity to do for the last ten years.”

Midtown Swim has raised money and put together a team for SAA-Atlanta for the past three years. This year, three swimmers are participating and have raised over 1,000 dollars.  

Senior Sarah Prevost has participated for two years.

“I heard about it through some teammates last year, and the Midtown Varsity Swim team has been involved with it for many years, so I just heard about it through that,” Prevost said.  

The SAA-Atlanta charity swim is on Sep. 24 at Lake Lanier Olympic Park and includes a half- mile, mile, and three-mile swim making it one of the organization’s biggest events.

“We are actually one of the largest swim [events] in the SAA,” Millsaps said. “Since 2013 we have granted over 2.6 million dollars to CHOA. So we have done an amazing job fundraising and partnering with them.”

Prevost is swimming the three-mile distance of the event and is doing everything she can to help.

“This year I’m the captain of our Midtown cluster, Swim Across America team,” Prevost said. “So basically I’m running our team page, helping get more people involved, running my own fundraiser page by reaching out to family members and friends, and just trying to get more people to either join the swim or donate money to fund cancer research.” 

Apart from raising money, SAA events allow people to share their stories.

“It’s honestly my favorite day of the year,” Millsaps said. “It’s a very moving day. There are people out there swimming for loved ones that they’ve lost, loved ones that they’re honoring for themselves. We also have a lot of cancer survivors that participate, so you can’t help but be moved and inspired by the stories that you hear and the people that you meet”

SAA-Atlanta is proud of what they have been able to accomplish.

“We have funded a team of doctors [at CHOA in brain tumor and acute myeloid leukemia research] for several years, and they’ve used our funding to advance their research and move into the clinical human trial phase, which we are very proud of,” Millsaps said.

Because of the rapid rate of bodily change in children, pediatric cancer research is left severely underfunded by the government.  

“Something like 4% of its funding comes from the government,” Millsaps said. “The government likes to give money to the ‘sure thing’ or the ‘sure bet’, and that is not the case for pediatric research. And so it relies, almost entirely, on private funding and donors and beneficiary relationships, like the one we have with CHOA.”

Over the years, SAA-Atlanta has grown.

“The first year in 2013, we had maybe 50 swimmers,” Millsaps said. “Now we’ve gotten to the point where we’ve had to max out, and we are on a waitlist swimmer wise. 

Senior Jory Richardson looks forward to swimming the mile event. 

“This is actually going to be my first year doing it,” Richardson said. “I’m really excited because I feel like it will be a fun experience to try something new.”

Every swimmer has a different reason for participating. 

“I’m doing it for other people, because normally I would be scared to swim an open water race, but I’m really excited to do it,” Richardson said. 

SAA events give students the opportunity to get involved in the community and support causes they are passionate about. 

“It inspires me to keep pushing,” Prevost said. “For cancer research and supporting others through a sport I love.”