Alyssa Corb will take to the open water next week, swimming 3 miles to raise thousands of dollars for cancer research.
Alyssa, 16, a junior at Mt. Hebron High School, has been participating in Swim Across America-Baltimore Open Water Swim since she was 8. This year’s event is Sunday, Sept. 15 in the Magothy River in Pasadena.
Alyssa began swimming in memory of her brother, Michael, who died from mixed lineage leukemia when he was an infant. Alyssa was 3 years old when he died of the blood cancer.
Going into her ninth Swim Across America-Baltimore event, Alyssa is looking to raise $18,000. She has raised more than $99,000 since her first year. Her goal is to reach a cumulative $117,000 to get her name on the national fundraiser list.
As of Friday, Alyssa had raised more than $16,000 for this year’s swim.
The donations will fund immunotherapy clinical trials and research at the Swim Across America Lab at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. Immunotherapy alters immune system response to treat diseases.
“I do it to honor my brother, my uncle, my aunt. It’s a bigger cause, too,” Alyssa said. “I’m doing this to save lives and make a difference, and I find that [to be] awesome.”
According to Alyssa’s bio on her Swim Across America page, she also swims in memory of her great-aunt, Alison, who died in 2014 after a seven-year battle with lung cancer, and her maternal uncle, Michael, who died from glioblastoma before she was born.
In her initial year participating in the swim, Alyssa saw it as a “perfect opportunity to honor my brother and do something I really like at the same time.”
Each year, Alyssa signs up on March 9, her brother’s birthday. From there, she kicks off fundraising for the next six months, receiving donations from her family, friends, teammates, classmates and more.
Alyssa’s fundraising efforts don’t end on the day of the swim, however. She will continue fundraising for about two more weeks to reach her goal.
Swim Across America was established in Nantucket, Massachusetts, in 1987 by Jeff Keith, a cancer survivor, and childhood friends Hugh Curran and Matt Vossler.
In 1985, Keith and Vossler completed a Run Across America event from Boston to Los Angeles over the span of eight months. The run raised more than $1 million for cancer research, according to Swim Across America’s website.
Keith had lost his right leg to cancer a decade before completing the run. After college, Keith and Vossler decided to bring the cause to their hometown and turn it into a swimming event.
Since 1987, the organization has raised more than $80 million through more than 100 pool and 20 open water events throughout the country.
When she first started, Alyssa swam 1 mile in the pool portion of the event for several years. She then progressed to 1 mile in open water, and now has been swimming 3 miles in open water for the past four years.
Alyssa will swim with her 11-year-old brother JD, her 9-year-old sister Sarah and her mother, Jennifer Corb. This is JD’s third year and Sarah’s first year participating.
Jennifer Corb has been swimming with her daughter for the past nine years.
For their first Swim Across America, Corb swam with her daughter for moral support.
“She was 8 years old and a mile seemed like a really long way,” Corb said.
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As soon as Alyssa saw she had raised a lot of money, Corb said, “She was all in … she never looked back."
Corb now swims with her other children to support them.
Alyssa, who also plays soccer at Mt. Hebron and on a club team, said her interest in swimming was born from her mom being a swimmer. Alyssa also swims with the Retriever Club in Baltimore County.
Both Corb and Alyssa look forward to hearing Johns Hopkins doctors and cancer survivors speak at the swimming events.
They hear first-witness accounts of how their fundraising efforts are directly affecting work and research completed at the lab in the cancer center.
“Hearing from the doctors and all the survivors is a privilege to be a part of,” Corb said.
Alyssa said hearing the stories show that her participation “is making a difference.”