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A swim to fight cancer

on October 5, 2010

Juicy Fruits, Margo Rivera-Weiss’s team for this Saturday and Sunday’s Swim A Mile For Women With Cancer fundraiser, helped Rivera-Weiss snub her nose at cancer.

“Juicy Fruits are all queer- identified, and we’re all, I’d say, larger than average,” said Rivera-Weiss, community outreach manager for the Women’s Cancer Research Center, the organization holding the swimming event. “We want to show that we can be queer, and we can be big, and we can be out there.”

Rivera-Weiss lost her mother to cancer at age 15.

The sun was shining this weekend in Oakland as Swim A Mile swimmers of all ages, colors, shapes, and sizes donned swimsuits, swim caps, and goggles in rainbow colors and dove into the sparkling blue water of the pool. At the Mills College Trefethen Aquatic Center, where the event was held, the large outdoor pool was able to accommodate the 400-plus participants swimming throughout the weekend. Three to five swimmers circled each lane–from the slowest of the pack to those who train with USA Swimming.

“I’m not a good swimmer, but I’m planning on swimming the whole mile,” Rivera-Weiss said. “I am actually scared of the water and I learned how to swim for the event. I don’t know what was I thinking, but when I was in the pool it was great. And it helped me feel strong. And I thought about my mom and all the people I know.”

The Women’s Cancer Research Center provides non-clinical support both for women with cancer and for the community in general. Around 5000 people, many of them family and friends of those afflicted, use the center’s services each year.

“It’s powerful to see how many people have been touched [by cancer] and what can be done when all those people are brought together,” said Latina program coordinator Alicia Riley.

The center welcomes anyone, but focuses on low-income and under-served populations. All the center’s services are free.

Swim A Mile, now in its 15th year, raises “fabulous” amounts of money for the center, said development director Pat Bregant. Swim A Mile is the center’s main fundraiser. Each participating swimmer was required to raise at least $350 in donations.

“I think once someone experiences the [swimming] event, they get their friends and family to participate as well,” Rivera-Weiss said. “We have a few people who fly in just to participate.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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