“Snow Swimming” has become a popular annual ritual. When the year’s first big snowfall hits, which it did in a big way for most of the American east coast last week, swimmers are called to validate their insanity and go for a dip in a much colder form of the water we so love. Suddenly, the 77 degree pools that feel so frigid when morning practice starts pale in comparison to the 32-degree-or-less snow banks, and yet we are called to them.
Usually, it’s for fun, for a distraction from brutal winter training, or to terrify (and sometimes amuse) our parents.
But when 62-year old Susan Helmrich took the plunge into the snow over the weekend – it was for a higher calling. Helmrich, a 3-time cancer survivor and former captain of the Syracuse University swim team, did it to raise money for Swim Across America.
As Helmrich explains in this video, she is a multiple-time survivor of cancer – a disease that has cost her her entire reproductive system, one lung, her gall bladder, her duodenum (which connects your stomach and small intestine), half of her pancreas, and everything from her liver was rerouted.
Helmrich was challenged by a friend, Robert McLaren, to jump in, then jump out, then jump back in – to the snow. If she did so, he promised to donate $500 to Swim Across America, which is a swimming-based organization that raises money for cancer research.
So she did it.
The temperature outside was 5 degrees Fahrenheit (though the pool in Rye Brook New York appeared considerably steamier).
And then he doubled down. Robert promised another $500 to Swim Across America if Helmrich could find a friend to repeat her feat.
So Susan grabbed her husband, and the two did a duet. Anohas agreed to donate her friend, Stephanie Middleton, also heeded the call, and so in total, McLaren has agreed to make a $1000 donation to SAA.
Helmrich is the race director for Swim Across America‘s annual San Francisco event. In 2017, she swam 669.29 miles, without her reproductive system, without a lung, without her gall bladder, without her duodenum, without half her pancreas, and with everything rerouted from her liver. For all that she didn’t have, what she does have is spirit, and fight, and the Heart of a Champion.
See videos of all 3 swims below.
Snow swimming… for a cause. A friend challenged Susan Hemlich, event director for @sanfranciscosaa and three-time cancer survivor, to do the #snowchallenge for a $500 donation to @saaswim. She did it on her own once, and then her husband, Richard, joined in for another $500 donation. SAA is our Heart of a Champion Swammy Award winner for 2017. You can learn more about Swim Across America and how to donate at the link in the bio #swimacrossamerica #snowswimming #snowchallenge2018
So my friend Susan Helmrich is an AMAZING swimmer – swims miles upon miles every year and raises lot of $ to fight cancer – which she's survived TWICE!!! A friend of her's had agreed to donate $500 to Swim Across America to help fight cancer if Susan put on her swim cap, goggles, and suit and jumped into the snow. He said he'd donate another $500 if I did too and video taped it. So here it is! Check out Swim Across America when you're thinking of your charitable contributions in 2018!
Posted by Stephanie Middleton on Monday, January 8, 2018