Sporting a pink scarf around her newly shaved head and a black baseball cap with pink rhinestone accents, Debra Hagan watched her sister swim Saturday afternoon.
Hagan, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, was moved to tears as she supported her sister at the 17th annual Swim A Mile for Women with Cancer. “I’m here as her cheerleader,” Hagan said. “I’m not a swimmer, but I can sure can cheer her on.”
The annual event is sponsored by the Women’s Cancer Resource Center, an Oakland-based organization that provides services to cancer patients.
At Saturday’s fundraiser, hundreds of women in bathing suits—many with the names of cancer patients or survivors scrawled in colored ink across their backs—jumped into the swimming pools at Mills College in Oakland to help raise money for cancer research.
Participants of all ages swam laps, walked or even used paddles to help them get to the finish: 45 laps in the pool completed the mile-long swim. Some swam alone and others partnered up to walk in pairs and encourage each other.
Upbeat music ranging from the popular song “Call Me Maybe” to the “Cupid Shuffle” filled the air. Tables stacked with fruit, cookies, bagels and other snacks were provided for Swim A Mile participants and spectators.
The event brought together swimmers of all ages to raise money for WCRC. The event is the center’s largest fundraiser and swimmers raise a third of the annual budget, said Peggy McGuire, the center’s executive director. “Every penny goes into service for women with cancer in the East Bay,” she said.