Patty Brummet Returns for Her 20th Year of Making Waves to Fight Cancer at the Annual Swim Across America – Chicago Open Water Swim

Brummet has raised more than $195,000 in support of cancer research through swimming and biking in honor of friends and family lost to cancer

Patty Brummet has 294 names written on her swim cap and cycling jersey, each in honor or memory of a loved one or friend who battled cancer. On Saturday, August 12, she will take these names back in the water with her for her 20th year participating in the Swim Across America – Chicago open water swim in support of Rush University Cancer Center to make waves in the fight against cancer. This year, Patty is swimming in honor of her friends Eileen, Leslie, Dave and Steve, and in memory of Berta.  Swimmers, land and water volunteers who are interested in participating in the August 12 open water swim, held annually for 30 years at Ohio Street Beach in downtown Chicago on Lake Michigan, can register at There are three different distances swimmers can participate in – a half-mile swim, 1-mile or 2-mile swim. For those who are unable to participate on August 12, a SAA My Way (virtual) fundraiser is available.

“I’ve been swimming for 20 years to raise money for cancer,” noted Patty Brummet. “Thirteen years ago, the night my father passed away, I promised him I would also ride across America. I still honor that promise I made to him to bike Across America. Since then, I have lost a brother, two sisters, a niece, a cousin, and several friends to cancer. I have swam more than 21 miles, biked more than 32,000 miles and raised close to $195,000 for cancer research through the years.”

Brummet, age 77, is captain of Team Life, made up of herself and four other friends, who are all swimming in the August 12th Swim Across America open water swim. The team has raised more than $30,000 for this year’s swim, with Patty personally raising more than $18,000 to date, making her the top contributor to the team. Shortly after she completes the swim on August 12, Patty will continue her quest to bike across the country leaving in September and riding down the East Coast from New York City to Raleigh, North Carolina. Her motivation to raise funds for cancer research comes from the names she wears as she swims and bikes for a cure. 

“As I ride and swim, I also will be remembering my two sisters who passed in 2008 and 2017, my brother who passed in 1997, my niece in 2005, Howard in 2014, Berta in 2023 and the other 291 plus names (my angels). I sadly continue to add names each year – thus the total of 294 names I swim and bike in memory or in honor of.” 

In the last several years, several of her friends whom she is dedicating this year’s swim and bike ride to, were diagnosed with cancer, but Brummet credits the groundbreaking research that Swim Across America has helped fund for their lives today. Leslie, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer on January 23, 2018, was given a 50-50 chance of living beyond one year. 

“Thanks to the wonder drug Alectinib (FDA approved this drug just two months before Leslie was diagnosed), Leslie has spent the past 63 months checking things off her bucket list,” said Patty Brummet. She shares her five friends’ stories of their personal battles with cancer on her personal fundraising page, including that of Berta, who passed away in March 2023 after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019. In reference to the donations her community has given in support of this year’s swim, Patty said, “The money you donate today ensures that cancer research will continue and lives will be saved. My four friends are alive today because of donors to our cause.”

Swim Across America – Chicago started in 1994; in 2012, it started supporting its current beneficiary the Rush University Cancer Center and since that time, has donated more than $2 million to support cancer research and clinical trials at Rush University Cancer Center. Around 280 swimmers, volunteers and supporters take to Lake Michigan every year to make waves to fight cancer for the Swim Across America – Chicago open water swim.

Swim Across America was founded in 1987 with its first open water event in Long Island Sound. Since that time, the nonprofit organization has raised more than $100 million to fight cancer. In its 36 years of “making waves to fight cancer,” more than 100,000 swimmers and 150 Olympians have swum the circumference of the earth three times, uniting a movement to fight cancer that has created a groundswell of support spanning all generations. Today, more than 24 communities hold open water swims and charity pool swims each year, from Nantucket to under the Golden Gate Bridge, which support innovative cancer research, detection and patient programs. 

Swim Across America’s funding of clinical trials for patients helped contribute to four FDA approved life-saving immunotherapy cancer treatments: Yervoy, Opdivo, Tecentriq and Keytruda. In June of last year, a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering was published in The New England Journal of Medicine that showed a 100 percent success rate in treating patients in a phase 2 clinical trial for advanced rectal cancer with dostarlimab, an immunotherapy treatment produced by GlaxoSmithKline. The clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering was funded by early-stage grant funding from Swim Across America. More than 60 scientific grants are funded each year and there are now ten dedicated Swim Across America Labs at major institutions including: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, John Hopkins Medicine Baltimore, Rush University Medical Center Chicago, Baylor Scott & White Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center New York, Infusion Center at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and San Francisco, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, The Swim Across America Pediatric Research Lab at Columbia University Medical Center New York, and at Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine.

To learn more about the Swim Across America – Chicago open water swim on August 12, or register to swim, donate or be a land or water volunteer, visit

About Swim Across America

Swim Across America, Inc. (SAA) is dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer research, prevention and treatment through swimming-related events. With the help of hundreds of volunteers nationwide and past and current Olympians, Swim Across America is helping find a cure for cancer through athleticism, community outreach and direct service. To learn more visit or follow on Facebook @SwimAcrossAmerica or on Instagram @SAASwim and Twitter @SAASwim.

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