The Colligans of Old Greenwich Have Made Swim Across America Fairfield County a Family Event for 17 Years

Hundreds of swimmers and volunteers are diving in and making waves in the fight against cancer at the 17th annual Swim Across America Fairfield County open water swim, held on Saturday, June 24, in Long Island Sound.

Swimmers swim a half-mile, 1.5-miles or 3-miles to raise funds for Swim Across America Fairfield County’s local beneficiary Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT).

Land and water volunteers also participate and hundreds of spectators line the water’s edge cheering on their friends and family members taking the plunge for this important cause.

This year, Old Greenwich residents Rob, Julie, Elizabeth and Owen Colligan, are participating in the swim for the 17th year in a row. The family has swam and volunteered every year since the swim’s inception in 2007.

This year is no different with Rob and Julie swimming and their teenage children Elizabeth and Owen volunteering out on the water as kayakers and paddle boarders.

In addition to swimming, Julie has also been the volunteer coordinator for the whole event for all of the 17 years they have been involved, encouraging and managing the hundreds of volunteers on the land and in the water that help make the swim a success each year.

This year, Old Greenwich residents Rob, Julie, Elizabeth and Owen Colligan, are participating in the swim for the 17th year in a row. Photo Jeni Howard

“If you want to spend a beautiful morning by the water helping to raise funds for cancer research, I encourage you to sign up for Swim Across America Fairfield County,” noted Julie Colligan. “We have hundreds of swimmers, land volunteers, boaters, kayakers, stand-up paddle boarders, safety crew, activity coordinators and more! It’s a fun and quick morning and one that really makes a difference in the fight against cancer. It’s not too late to sign up at”

Funds raised by Swim Across America Fairfield County go directly to support scientific cancer gene therapy grants administered by the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy. Swim Across America Fairfield County has specifically raised $5 million in the past 16 years for ACGT. This year’s  swim supports three Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy research fellows funded by Swim Across America Fairfield County who are using the funds to find better and more effective cancer treatments using cell and gene therapy. The scientists are Sidi Chen, PhD, of Yale University  School of Medicine, Department of Genetics, Systems Biology Institute and Cancer Center, working on a novel CRISPR-based immune gene therapy for pancreatic cancer; Brian Brown, PhD, with the Icahn Genomics Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York who is equipping a patient’s own T cells to kill cancer cells in tumors, specifically working on lung cancer, with the hope the work translates to other types of cancer; and Juan Fueyo, MD, with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center department of Neuro-Oncology-Research and Division of Cancer Medicine, who is using his grant to develop novel gene therapy strategies for the treatment of malignant gliomas (brain cancer).

Swim Across America’s funding of clinical trials on a national level has helped contribute to four FDA approved life-saving immunotherapy cancer treatments: Yervoy, Opdivo, Tecentriq and Keytruda. Just last summer, the very exciting news about 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.

“We all love swimming and we all have a passion for fighting cancer,” noted Rob Colligan, who is swimming 1.5 miles in the open water swim event, but has swam the 3-mile course throughout the years. “Combining the sport we love with such an important cause has been a no-brainer for us to be involved all of these years. Every year we try to get more friends and family to join in the water with us or on the land as volunteers. Originally we swam and volunteered to remember family members who lost their fight with cancer, and then others who have had to take on the battle. Each year at the swim we celebrate their lives and honor those battles, but in recent years, too many friends and loved ones have been added to that list. We continue to swim to further the work of the incredible ACGT researchers and fuel the hope of cancer patients.” 

Swim Across America was founded in 1987 by Darien, Connecticut, resident Matt Vossler and held its first open water event in Long Island Sound off the shores of Connecticut. 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 hundreds of charity pool swims each year, from Nantucket to under the Golden Gate Bridge, which support innovative cancer research, detection and patient programs. The June 24th swim includes a half-mile swim, a 1.5-mile swim and a 3-mile swim.

“We have seen the direct benefits of the partnership between Swim Across America and the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy,” said Julie Colligan in a release. “Research that has been funded by our swim has created life saving treatments for our neighbors! We know that new treatments and a cure for cancer are right around the next swim buoy! We will continue to swim and volunteer until cancer is curable and then we will swim to celebrate our collective accomplishments with this amazing community.”

To learn more about Swim Across America Fairfield County or to register to swim, volunteer or donate for the June 24th open water swim, visit