Tags: Community & Outreach
A crowd gathers to cheer on the swimmers. Caitlyn Walters. (click for larger version)
Griffin Egolf, far right, with Lilly Anderson's name written on his back, awaits his turn to swim. Caitlyn Walters. (click for larger version)
September 30, 2013CUMMING, Ga. — Griffin Egolf, 10, participated in a swim fundraiser to honor his 11-year-old schoolmate who passed away from a rare form of cancer.
On Sept. 21, Egolf swam 500 meters in the open waters at Lake Lanier Islands Beach and Water Park, 7000 Lanier Islands Parkway, alongside hundreds of other swimmers, young and old, for the fourth annual SwimForYourLife challenge.
Numerous Olympians swam with and cheered on the fundraisers, who all together raised $39,557.
The fundraiser, started by Olympic swimmer Eric Shanteau, brings cancer awareness into the swimming community. Egolf jumped at the opportunity to join when he saw the flyer at the Cumming Aquatic Center, where he regularly swims.
"He saw the flyer, brought it home to me and told me he wanted to do this," said LeeAnn Egolf, his mother. "His friends run 5K's and raise money in other ways, and he thought he could use his swimming talent for this cause."
And raise money, he did.
Within a matter of weeks, Egolf became the top fundraiser in his age group and the second highest out of all the fundraisers with $2,485.
Shanteau honored Egolf and top fundraiser Grant McMahon, who raised $2,735, for their efforts and invited them to a private dinner on Sept. 20 at his home off Lake Lanier.
Much of Egolf's fundraising success is contributed to a Sharpie and a camera.
When Egolf decided to honor his schoolmate Lilly Anderson, he wanted to write her name on his back in Sharpie like competitive swimmers do.
But Egolf chose his back to write her name for a specific reason.
"I wanted her to see me from above," Egolf said.
Once the word got out that he was writing names of cancer patients on his body, tons of people wanted to see the names of their loved ones too.
"It has been unbelievably emotional," LeeAnn said. "People would call me crying and asked to write the names of their family members and friends."
LeeAnn's friend, Marianne Nash is a professional photographer. Nash thought of the idea to arrange a photo session with Griffin and all the Sharpied names before the swim to raise awareness for him and for all those battling cancer.
"I am eternally thankful to have been given the opportunity to do this for the Egolfs," Nash said. "My goal was to help Griffin reach his goal and to also raise awareness of the actual swim event on a larger scale, so that donators can fully understand what they are helping with their funds and support."
After Nash's pictures were posted on Facebook, LeeAnn said it went viral with positive comments and support.
"Griffin's fundraising went from about $600 to $2,000 after they were posted," LeeAnn said. "It was amazing, and she is an amazing photographer."
The photos helped grow the names on Egolf's body down to his legs, and he was happy to see them all there after his first open water swim.
"I can't believe I did that," said Egolf after racing out of the water before Olympian swimmer Haley Anderson. "I thought it was really cool, and I was very happy to be doing this for a good cause."