KELLER, Texas -- By 6 in the morning at Keller High School, waves are dancing and swim practice is underway.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” said swim coach Linda Shults.
Thirty of her young athletes are gearing up for Swim Across America and raising money for cancer research.
One of them is varsity swimmer Holt Ragsdale.
“Cancer has really hit my family hard especially,” said 17-year old Ragsdale, who lost two grandparents to bone cancer. More recently, his mother was diagnosed with melanoma.
“I just want to do everything I can to really just help out," said the Keller High School senior.
His teammate, sophomore Sam Lucas, swims with purpose too.
“I don't want anyone else to deal with this disease,” said Lucas, whose aunt lost her battle with breast cancer. “We're doing this for her.”
In 30 years, Swim Across America has raised $70 million for phase one clinical trials.
“Not until we find success at that very initial level do other sources of money and grants come in,” said Ryan Berube, Dallas director for Swim Across America
In Dallas, since the program kicked off in 2010, people like Ragsdale and Lucas have helped to raise more than $2 million for Baylor Sammons Innovative Clinical Trial Center.
“You'll walk in and right on the door it says ‘Swim Across America,' and we are a huge part of funding that floor,” said Berube, who is a 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist. He, too, has a deeply personal cancer connection. His wife had a brain tumor when they were just dating.
“It was a benign tumor, but it was growing,” said Berube. “It was impacting her balance and her growth and all kinds of things.”
The two have now been married for 20 years and have two boys: Jack, 12 and Rush, 5.
“As a kid you feel so helpless when a loved one is afflicted and is diagnosed with cancer,” said Berube. “This is a way that we're allowing kids to actually, physically, tangibly do something about it.”
It’s a reminder that the most critical piece in the search for a cure really can start anywhere.
For more information on Swim Across America go here.