Swimmers relay across Lake Michigan to raise money for cancer research

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - It’s probably the shortest, but most challenging way to get from Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan. But 15 people are making the 43 mile swim to help raise money for cancer research.

The swim is part of the national Swim Across America project that conducts open water swims in various cities.

“I feel like this is more of an opportunity of a lifetime, cause you can't just say you swam across Lake Michigan every day, so I decided it would be a neat experience,” said Jillian Bacon, a 14-year-old freshman at Maine South High School, who is the youngest swimmer on the team.

As they prepared for their “swimtacular” night, the swimmers had a little time to reflect on what was ahead of them. They will be wearing wet suits and goggles and other gear, taking shifts which could last an hour depending on how tired they get.

“Originally there was supposed to be 20 people and they just told me there's 15. We were going to go three at a time, now we're only going to go two at a time, so I think I'm probably going to be doing between five and seven (swimming shifts) or more, but I'm ready for it,” said Erik Campbell, a 42-year-old veteran of numerous ironman triathlons.

Two boats are making the trip with the swimmers whose trip is expected to take about 24 hours.
The group has raised over $50,000 for cancer research, which will go to Rush University Medical Center.

Most, if not all of the swimmers, have a connection to cancer in one way or another.

“I think everyone you know nowadays has someone close to them that's affected by cancer or who is currently going through cancer treatment,” said Gina Ferguson, another veteran triathlete. “My cousins’ daughter, 9 years old, was diagnosed with leukemia just about five weeks ago and so my intention is to swim hard and swim fast. And the motto with Swim Across America is 'Make Waves to Fight Cancer.'"

Jillian Bacon said she has been swimming since she was 5 years old, but this will definitely be her biggest challenge ever.

“It’s definitely going to be longer and a lot more tiring, but I guess we'll just see how it goes down cause you never know what's going to happen in the middle of the lake,” Bacon said.

The swimmers are hoping to arrive in New Buffalo before sunset Saturday.