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14th annual Swim-A-Mile to be held Oct. 3 and 4

The Mills College Swim Team will be participating in the 14th annual Swim-A-Mile Fundraiser for Women With Cancer, which will be held at the Trefethen Aquatic Center on Oct. 3 and 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

An estimated 500 men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds will swim in this year’s event. Participants range from cancer survivors to those who swim in honor and memory of families and friends with cancer.

Mills Trefethen Aquatic Center. (Carrol Page)
Mills Trefethen Aquatic Center. By Carrol Page

All proceeds from the event will go to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center (WCRC), an Oakland non-profit which dedicates 75 percent of its resources to providing programs that support women affected by cancer, according to its website.

The event is open to the public, though each swimmer is required to raise at least $250 in donations. Donors can pledge to swimmers online via the WCRC’s website or in person at the event.

Participants don’t have to swim the full mile, which is 36 lengths (down and back) in the College’s 25-yard pool.

“I hope that more of the Mills community comes to watch or swim this year. It’s a powerful, positive, emotional and fun experience all in one event,” said Neil Virtue, the Mills swim coach.

Virtue has been coaching for 15 years, eight of which have been here at Mills. He said this event is one of the most rewarding experiences he has ever had. Virtue plans to honor his family and friends by writing the names of those who have been affected by cancer on his back.

Since 1995, more than 5,000 swimmers have participated in Swim-A-Mile. They have helped raise $2.2 million for local women and their families who have been affected by cancer.

In light of preparation for this year’s fundraiser, the swim team will hold three Swim-A-Mile clinics for those who have signed up to participate in the event. The clinics are intended to help those who want to work on their swimming skills prior to the event. They will be held Saturday Sept. 12 and Sunday Sept. 20 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. as well as on Friday Sept. 25 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The clinics will cost $5 and the money will go towards the swim team’s contribution to the event.

Desirae Tongco, a sophomore on the Mills swim team, will be participating in her second Swim-A-Mile. She said, “I absolutely love the event. It’s great to have the opportunity to incorporate what I love — swimming — with community service. Working with people I didn’t know during the clinics and uniting for a common cause is rewarding. I especially enjoy seeing the names of people who had/have breast cancer on the swimmers’ backs.

Since 1986 the WCRC has been providing free services for women with cancer who need support and advocacy in a non-clinical setting. Money raised by the WCRC goes to resources for cancer patients such as support groups, psychotherapy, yoga and cooking classes, along with in-home assistance, emergency money funds and an on-site library. These services provide companionship and love for those who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Margo Rivera-Weiss, Community Outreach Manager for the WCRC, spoke of the importance of the event. “The Swim-A-Mile is a magical event where people who have experienced cancer themselves, or for those who just want to support someone with cancer, all jump in the pool to make sure that no woman with cancer is alone,” she said.

The Swim-A-Mile is the most important fundraising event for the WCRC. Out of every dollar raised during the event 71 percent goes directly to client services, according to the WCRC’s website.

Last year the WCRC received $285,000 in pledges on behalf of swimmers at the event. Their goal is to reach $300,000 this year.

Virtue said, “I feel like being that we are an all women’s college makes this a very important event. Cancer affects everybody and donating to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center is one way to help.”

The swim team is also offering to honor a specific friend or family member of Mills community members at the event with an honor card. For Swim-A-Mile questions, honor card inquiries or donations, e-mail Neil Virtue at or go online to