7th Annual Swim for Cystic Fibrosis to take place July 21st

Swim for Cystic Fibrosis 2013
Ric Geyer
On July 21, for the seventh year in a row, an adventurous group of swimmers will brave the currents and weather to cross the 14.2-mile breadth of Lake St. Clair to raise awareness and funds for cystic fibrosis.

For Ric Geyer, cystic fibrosis is personal. He founded the 'Swimming St Clair' fundraiser soon after his youngest son, Rickie, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a hereditary disease that attacks the lungs and the pancreas. Eventually, CF blocks airflow in the lungs, and can also block the ability of the body to pull necessary nutrients from food. Geyer’s goal is to set aside a medical trust fund for Rickie, who may require a lung transplant in the future, and also to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, whose research has more than doubled the life expectancy for the 30,000 children and adults currently living with cystic fibrosis in the United States. Geyer hopes that the swim will make more people aware of this disease.

The swimmers will begin just south of the Old Club on Harsen’s Island, and end at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club near Detroit, Michigan. In previous years, they braved swarms of flies, hail, and hundred degree temperatures.

Corporate Fleet Services, Inc., a pioneer in vehicle leasing that serves business customers in all 50 states and Canada, is the swim’s Premier Sponsor for the seventh year in a row. Corporate Fleet Services’ Vice President and General Manager, Mike Stevens, will once again provide two chase boats and actively participate in the swim.

'Giving back to the community, helping people is at the core of who we are and it is ingrained in the culture of our business,' said Stevens. 'Great companies understand that you need to have good committed people who are professionals at what they do as well as possess a sense of service to others -- especially those less fortunate.' Stevens added that company is active in a host of charities including: United Way, Boys and Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan; Detroit Thunderfest, with the CFS logo prominently displayed on a hydroplane racing at the July 11-13 event on the Detroit river.

Other sponsors include SWIMSPRAY, a spray that removes chlorine after swimming in chlorinated pools, and Hutchinson and Cannatella, P.C. One of the Hutchinson and Cannatella Principals, Mike Hutchinson, will be swimming St. Clair for the fifth time.

For more information about 'Swimming St Clair' and cystic fibrosis, or to donate to Rickie’s Medical Trust Fund or the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, visit Swimming St Clair or visit their Facebook page.

A letter from the event founder Ric Geyer:

Monday, July 21st, 2014 will mark our seventh consecutive year of swimming from the north shore of Lake St. Clair to the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, near the mouth of the Detroit River 14.2 miles (and about seven hours) away… There are two remarkable things about this event. First, that everyone keeps coming back year after year. We just can’t shake ‘em. It’s like once somebody joins us, they can’t stop – it becomes a habit. Or more appropriately, a rite of passage, I suppose. The second is the support from donors and supporters. Without you this doesn’t happen.

It is a remarkable feeling sitting on that boat at 7am, crisp wind in your face, cruising north at about 25 knots, crossing the 14 mile distance in about 30 minutes. Especially knowing that as soon as you get there, you’ll be turning around and returning – at much slower speeds…

This event and this group of folks has become very special – it is now an annual pilgrimage of sorts, for all of us. Captain Mike is the rock – he’s always there. Consistent, unflappable, funny (well, maybe not the funny part…) but he’s always there (and his kids are funny…). Hutch, Tim, Dave, Gregs #1 and #2, Blake and Sara are good solid swimmers always ready to kick in decent mileage. We can generally count on Derek as well, though he seems to have lost his boyish form. And there’s English Channel Jenny, 'La Machine' - our heroine, and Fares - the monster (and photographer and video guy, and now also the DAC Masters Swim Coach), and Casey and Watty – the only two to make it the entire 14.2 miles without a break last year. And Vince. Nice guy – good swimmer – and great boat. We’ll miss him this year, but he’s out of town. He has promised he’d be back next year, for sure.

The Cause

And then there’s Rickie. The purpose of our effort is to bring more attention to kids like him afflicted with cystic fibrosis. Rickie, who is just about to turn 13, was diagnosed with cf on October 12th, 2007. CF is a hereditary disease that attacks the lungs and the pancreas. It eventually blocks air flow in the lungs, and can also block the ability of the body to pull necessary nutrients from food. Luckily, Rickie’s health is almost always excellent – he had a little episode two months ago, but with his treatments and his battery of meds he’s recovered. I often wonder what it’s like to be him, to be almost 13 and have CF. I mean, 12 was hard enough for me as it was.

But thank goodness for the meds… They’ve just come up with another one – just passed Phase 3 clinical trials last week - a combination of drugs - ivacaftor/lumicaftor. Ivacaftor (Kalydeco) was developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals in conjunction with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and is the first drug that treats the underlying cause rather than the symptoms of the disease. Unfortunately, it helps only 4% of those afflicted with cf and is one of the most expensive drugs on the market, costing over $300,000 per year. But with the addition of lumicaftor, it has been shown that the largest part of the cf population can be significantly improved, including those with Rickie’s variation. It is wonderful that they are making such phenomenal progress that this is now no longer considered just a childhood disease. The average lifespan is now almost 40, up from 18 when they discovered the gene at the U of M!! in 1989. By the time Rickie is 30, the average lifespan will be 60, and when he’s 50, hopefully there won’t be a statistical difference…

To those of you who have been following us for several years and have been active fundraising participants, 'We Salute You'. Without you this doesn’t work - we appreciate your continued support. If you can donate to Rickie’s Medical Fund, that would be great. If you are interested in donating to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, or in learning more about the disease, please click on www.cff.org. There is also way to donate money to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Rickie’s name. Thanks again for your support and interest.

The Swim

2013 was smooth water and we had two great boats, thanks to Mike Stevens and Vince Brennan. This year so far we have one boat and two Skidoos. The Skidoos are lifesavers (literally) but we need a second boat. So if anyone know someone with a 30 ft (-ish) boat who can steer straight for eight hours at two knots, please have them email us. We are hoping to avoid the driving rain, lightning and hail that characterized 2009’s swim, and the relentless winds coming out of southwest that pounded us in 2010, 2011 and 2012. 2012 was also known as the year of the 'Year of the Flies' and of the 102 degree temperatures. 2013 was much easier on us, given that the waves were smoother, the wind not as bad, and that fact that we followed the shipping channel part way down the lake, which meant we were swimming more than twice as fast as normal. We covered the first mile in less than 15 minutes!! Typically that would take us about 30 minutes. The picture at top shows the 2013 group, our biggest ever.

Please pass this on if you know someone who might be interested. And if you know someone else who has cf – please ask them to contact us. We’d like to get them hooked into the fabulous assistance network provided by the National CF Organization,. or one of the state group in Michigan or Georgia. These groups are a model for charitable organizations nationwide. They can help, through medical research, through financial advising and through working together, but individuals need to contact them.


Ric Geyer