By Ricki Demarest
Get the bathing suits, water wings and flippers out of storage.
On Sunday, Oct. 21, swimmers of all ages and abilities jumped in to honor a Long Valley teen’s memory and raise money to fight Pediatric Cancer during the Sarah’s Swim for HOPE Memorial Swim-A-Thon at the Morristown High School Pool.
The pool was set up so that swimmers who wanted to swim laps and work out could do so, but others who just wanted to splash around for a good cause could enjoy a “fun lane” for up to a half hour.
Sarah Crowley loved to swim. During her freshman year at West Morris Central High School, she always brought her enthusiasm and skill to practice. The 15-year-old Long Valley resident never competed in a high school meet, however. Her fiercely fought battle with leukemia ended when she passed away last April. Crowley’s friends and family have continued to fight pediatric cancer and honor her memory by establishing the Sarah’s Fight For HOPE Foundation, “a charitable, New Jersey based nonprofit organization committed to providing HOPE and help children battling cancer and their families,” according to the website.
The event was hosted by Sarah’s PALS, the teen division of the Foundation.
PALS volunteer and WMC senior Mark Boiko, knew Crowley and her sister Briellen as part of a larger swimming family.
“I’ll always remember how psyched Sarah was to be on the WMC Swim Team,” said Boiko, who is also the WMC Swim Team captain. “She was so happy to be feeling good and be with her friends and doing her sport.”
Those memories inspired him to organize the Swim-A-Thon. After receiving Foundation support, Bioko plunged ahead with his plans.
“The majority of high school conference and county swim events are held at Morristown High School,” he explained. “They have a great pool. I wrote to Mr. Smitty Horton, the AD [Athletic Director] for Morristown and he liked the idea.”
Horton was instrumental in helping secure the location and permission to hold the event.
“I had to write up a proposal, and provide documents like my agenda for the day, guidelines, proof of insurance, etc.,” he says. “It was a very snowy winter last year and the meetings got rescheduled a few times so I was nervous that I wouldn’t get approval. Mr. Horton was very helpful.”
As event organizer, Boiko was also in charge of recruiting swimmers. He did so with carefully worded letters to local swim team coaches outlining the plan for the day and explaining that “All proceeds will benefit the Sarah’s Fight for HOPE Foundation, a 501©(3) organization established in honor of Sarah, with a mission to raise awareness of pediatric cancer and continue Sarah’s legacy.”
Earlier in October there almost 70 swimmers from Long Valley, Chatham, Madison, Morristown, and Rockaway set to take part in the Swim-A-Thon, with two swim sessions from 1 pm. to 3 p.m.; and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The event also featured a bake sale, pizza party, special speakers and vendors.
Boiko and other members of PALS, (Perseverance, Awareness, Love, and Support) were hopeful that swimmers and the community at large embrace Sarah’s legacy.
“Sarah’s death has had a huge impact on my life and the way I view life,” Boiko said.