July 12, 2024 Donate

Chelsea, Dexter, Saline

Cancer Survivor Kara Wolter Makes Waves to Fight Cancer at 6th Annual Swim Across America

Community News

Kara Wolter of Pinckney, Michigan, was just 26 years-old when she was diagnosed with metastatic osteosarcoma, a type of aggressive bone cancer in 2017. The cancer was found in her left knee and had also spread to her lungs. Kara’s treatment plan included six different chemotherapies, multiple surgeries, as well as six lung wedge recession surgeries, and amputation of her left leg above the knee. Due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, Kara was told that she may be susceptible to a high recurrence rate and had only a 15 to 20% chance to live another five years.  

Seven years later, Kara is now 33 years old and thriving as a cancer survivor. She has thankfully had no evidence of disease for three years.  

An avid swimmer who grew up swimming, Kara first learned about Swim Across America – Motor City Mile from a flyer in her oncologist’s office.  

“During a checkup with my oncologist at Rogel Cancer Center, I saw a notice for the upcoming Swim Across America – Motor City Mile event. Proceeds from the event go towards cancer research right there at Rogel Cancer Center where I was being treated,” said Kara. “I used to swim as a child, and now I coach for the same team I swam with, so it was an easy decision to sign up for Swim Across America – Motor City Mile.” 

Kara’s connection to the Swim Across America mission and its local beneficiary, the University of Michigan Rogel University Cancer Center, where Kara was being treated, also made it a natural for her to participate. 

“Swim Across America is so important to me. I survived a terrible cancer that I probably should not have survived, and I want to make a difference to others undergoing a similar diagnosis in the future,” said Kara. 

Swim Across America – Motor City Mile will be held Friday, July 12, 2024, at the Belle Isle Beach House in Detroit. There are four swimming options available: a quarter-mile, half-mile, 1-mile or 2-mile swim. Participants can also join in virtually with “SAA My Way.” Boaters, kayakers, paddle boarders and land volunteers also participate in this inspirational event. To register as a swimmer or a volunteer, or to donate, visit swimacrossamerica.org/detroit. 

This will be Kara’s fifth year swimming in the Swim Across America – Motor City Mile open water swim and she hopes to hit yet another personal milestone. Kara, her team, the Sassy Swimmers, and hundreds of other swimmers, volunteers, and supporters, will be diving in to make waves to fight cancer and hope to make an even greater impact in their community.  

“I am so close to raising more than $20,000 to fight cancer!” exclaimed Kara. “Five years and almost $20,000 raised… I know we are making an incredible impact in our community.” 

Since 2019, Swim Across America – Motor City Mile has raised more than $500,000 for its local beneficiary the Rogel Cancer Center. Swim Across America’s funding has been instrumental in bringing additional recognition to the institution and just last year in 2023, Dr. Kyoung Eun Lee, one of the Swim Across America – Motor City Mile grant recipients, received an additional $1.4M grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to study the role low oxygen supplies play in pancreatic cancer. 

Swim Across America is a national organization and offers open water and pool swims in 24 communities, from Boston Harbor to under the Golden Gate Bridge. Founded in 1987, Swim Across America has raised more than $100 million in the fight against cancer. Funds raised by Swim Across America and its grants have helped support the research and clinical trials for FDA approved immunotherapy medicines, including KeytrudaOpdivoYervoy and Tecentriq. Swim Across America is also a grant funder of the successful clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine and showed a 100 percent success rate in treating patients in a phase 2 clinical trial for advanced rectal cancer with dostarlimab. Swim Across America grants support more than 60 projects each year and there are ten named Swim Across America Labs at major institutions including: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, John Hopkins Medicine Baltimore, Rush University Medical Center Chicago, Baylor Scott & White Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center New York, Infusion Center at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and San Francisco, Fred Hutch Cancer Center, The Swim Across America Pediatric Research Lab at Columbia University Medical Center New York, and at Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. 

More than 150 Olympians support Swim Across America, including Michael Phelps, Craig Beardsley (who was inducted into the International Swimmer’s Hall of Fame in 2022), Donna De Varona, Rowdy Gaines, Janel Jorgensen McArdle, Bobby Hackett, Ryan Lochte, Glenn Mills, Cristina Teuscher and many more.  

To learn more about Swim Across America – Motor City Mile or to register to swim, volunteer or donate, visit swimacrossamerica.org/detroit.