When 280 swimmers descend upon the Long Island Sound Saturday morning, nine will be representing the City of Norwalk. Those nine will be carrying the banner for the city as participants helping raise money for St. Vincent's Medical Center, with the proceeds providing financial support and care for the needs that health insurance companies do not cover.
It's the 23rd annual swim for the hospital.
For Norwalk's Laina Grillo, 41, heading into her third swim, the event has become a part of her summer.
"It's such a great cause where you can do so much good for so many people," said Grillo, who is participating in a seven-person relay team dubbed "Carl's Angels."
The Swim provides cancer screenings at low or no-cost to the uninsured and underinsured and helps cancer patients and their family through free support groups, wigs, prostheses, and financial assistance, with medications, transportation, daycare, utilities, mortgages and more.
"You always know someone who has been affected. Our boat captain was touched by it, my mother-in-law, every family get hit by it," said Grillo, a mother of two. "You always meet people. There's a woman I swim with who was touched by it, and she's actually going to be doing the swim herself."
The swim starts at Danford's Marina in Port Jefferson, N.Y. at 8:30 a.m., and ends at Captain's Cove Seaport in Bridgeport -- 15-mile journey for swimmers. Many, like Grillo, are regular swimmers. Grillo was a distance swimmer in college and as part of the relay team will get in the water about four times, swimming about a mile each time she gets in.
"This is what I can do to help. I don't run or bike, I swim and it's a great cause," said Grillo, who is in her fifth year swimming at the Swim Across the Sound.
Norwalk's Denise Callahan, 46, is also a lifelong swimmer. She is part of a two-person team called Dangerfish, and will be swimming roughly eight miles on Saturday, about half the distance.
"The charity is very affective in that the money goes to the right places for people who's family members have cancer and can't afford some of the basic services," said Callahan, a family relations counselor in Danbury.
Laura Scerbo, 26, works for General Electric as an analyst. This is the third year in a row she and a team of swimmers will take to the Sound.
"I think everyone has been affected by cancer in some way. Personally, I lost a good friend of mine from high school to cancer," Scerbo said. "The work that they do is so important and the benefits are so real and you can see the affect it has."
Scerbo, who was a swimmer in high school, will wind up being in the water for about two miles as part of the six-person team.
"It's great to see how many people come out and do it," Scerbo said. "There are so many people there cheering you on when you get to the finish line and it's a really great day."
Grillo said that the day itself is something to look forward to as well.
"From starting on the beach, to finding your swimmers in the water, it's a long and usually hot day," she said. "And then they start and end the day with talks of how thankful everyone is that we take part in this."
Each relay team, like the one Grillo is on, is required to raise $7,500. Two-person teams, like Callahan's, have to raise $3,500, while solo swimmers raise $1,500. In 2009, the Swim raised $2.65 million and the money helps more than 20,000 people each year.
Grillo, Callahan and Scerbo all reached out to friends and family to raise money for their respective teams. As an added bonus, Scerbo said, GE matches any donations that employees can garner, doubling their total for the cause.