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The 13th Annual Swim-A-Cross had a special synergy as it joined together the Red Cross' commitment to public service and raised funds for them to do that job. It all came together at the Swim-A-Cross on Friday, Aug. 16, held at Centre Island Beach in Bayville. This year there were more people than ever raising funds for the nationwide organization that helps people in tragic emergencies, such as the attack on the World Trade Center. This year, 47 of the swimmers participated in memory of a loved one who perished on September 11, 2001.

The event, held to commemorate the American heroes who died in the collapse of the Twin Towers brought out a great many participants. This year, even before the check-in time on Friday morning, there were about 140 people already signed up, said Nassau County Red Cross Board member Ed Molenhoff. There were in all, 189 people registered of whom 163 showed up and physically swam the mile. "Those figures set all new records for us," said ARC/Nassau Director of Public Relations James K. Green of Farmingdale. Last year's Swim-A-Cross had an all-time record at that point of 149 swimmers and raised a record-setting $22,000 for local disaster relief and life-saving programs.

Those who pre-registered this year and didn't swim still paid their fees, said Mr. Green. The Red Cross expects to raise $25,000 when all the swimmers pledges are tallied. They are due in four weeks.

Set up on the Centre Island Beach was a memory board with the names of those people being remembered. The names included: Christopher Allingham, Steve Belson, Kevin Bracken, Capt. Frank Callahan, Jeremy Carrington, Bobby D'Angelis, Michael D'Auria, Andy Desperito, Donald DiFranco, Raymond Downey, Bruce Gary, Edward Geraghty, James Giberson, Lt. John Ginley, Jeff Giordano, Catherine Gorayeb, Wade Green, David Gimner, Lt. Vincent Halloran, Brooke Jackman, William Johnston, Joseph A. Kelly, Tom Kelly, Tom Cangone, Michael Lynch, Thomas Mahon, Steve Mercado, Peter T. Milano, Henry Miller, Jr., Vincent Morello, John Ballantine Niven, Michael Otten, Eddie Pappa, Bronko Pearsall, John William Perry, Michael Roberts, Jonathan S. Ryan and John Swaine.

Travis and Tucker Mitchell of Oyster Bay were swimming in honor of John Ballantine Niven, senior vice president for merges and acquisitions for Aon Corp. in the World Trade Center. Bob and Tucker Mitchell's daughter Sawyer's godmother is Mr. Niven's sister.

Joseph Woodstock was swimming for his friend Thomas Mahon, whose mother Bridie Mahon brought his nephew Dennis Napoli with her to the Swim-A-Cross on Centre Island.

Matthew Descovich, 15, of Plainview swam in memory of his uncle, New York City Fire Dept. Lt. Vincent Halloran, who also lost his life in the World Trade Center tragedy. Matt was the first swimmer to reach Centre Island, after leaving the dock a mile away across the harbor. Mr. Halloran was assigned to Ladder Company 8 in Tribeca, just three blocks away from the Twin Towers and was one of the first to respond.

This is the fifth Swim-A-Cross for Matt, who started at age 10. A member of the Long Island Aquatic Club and an active member of the Greater Long Island Runners Club, Mr. Descovich also competes in local triathlons.

That was what brought swimmer Chuck Gleason of Glen Cove out. Mr. Gleason used the Swim-A-Cross to prepare for the triathlon on Sunday, Aug. 18. "It beats laps in the pool, because they're so boring: going back and forth. Last year I swam in a wet suit, it's faster. This year, I wanted a workout and swam without one." More swimmers than ever wore wet suits this year.

Mr. Gleason said a lot of the Swim-A-Cross athletes do the triathlon. They are run out of New York City, West Point and Oyster Bay (Aug. 18). "Some people do it in teams, but that defeats the whole purpose. I love saying, 'Why be good at one sport when you can be mediocre at three!'" He said his best sport was biking. His wife is Mary Ann Driscoll of Glen Cove Cares.

This year again, Bayville's Renata Maimone took part in the Swim-A-Cross. At 85, she still enjoys the sport. She and her son Jeff practiced for the event at Stehli Beach. This year he swam in a full body nylon suit. "On July 4th I swam through a school of jellyfish and got stung all over. That Monday I bought a nylon skin suit as protection from the jelly fish. It doesn't stop the horse flies."

Bud Winslow, Town of Oyster Bay Water Safety Coordinator said he hadn't gotten reports of jelly fish this year. Jeff explained, "We go out further than most swimmers, and that's where they were."

As the athletes came out of the water, they were given a commemorative Red Cross September 11th pin, and a dry towel. Water, fruit and bagels were at the sign out desk. The swimmers wear numbered tags and are asked to return them, to assure the Red Cross that everyone who entered the water, comes out. "If not we'll be looking for you all night," said Judge Lally as she spoke to the first bus, filled with the fastest swimmers.

This year the swim began at 9 a.m. following the tide. "When the tide is low the swimmers have to walk over lots of rocks and pebbles to get into the water," explained Judge Ute Lally, ARC/Nassau former board member. She said the earlier hour seemed to help attract swimmers. "The turnout seems better," she said.

Red Cross Board Member Ed Molenhoff of Oyster Bay said previously they thought beginning around noon allowed people to take a half-day off work, now they see the early morning hours as a better offering and plan to do it again.

It was an exceptional Swim-A-Cross. Each has its own special sweetness and stories. This year the cause touched the hearts of many. The next step is for the swimmers to collect their pledge money and to send it in to the ARC/Nassau. For more information about the Red Cross please call (516) 747-3500 ext. 251.

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