Groceries and Gas for Patients at the Todd Cancer Institute - Fundraising $1 for 1 meter open water swim

Fundraising for patients who suffer financial toxicity of cancer, choosing between paying their bills, or groceries, or gas to get to the appointments, etc. Many patients became disabled or lost their jobs and insurance, have high deductibles and co-pays


164 supporters

$27,759 goal

Team Members



61 supporters



8 supporters



6 supporters



5 supporters



3 supporters

Lisa Huff Lenzini


2 supporters

Neil McFarlane


1 supporter



0 supporters



0 supporters



0 supporters


Created By

Mariusz Wirga


For a more chronological and personal story behind the swims go here:

Update 10/28.2021

On the desk behind Lori Tritto (Director Clin Operations at TCI) $1000 worth of gift cards (groceries and gas) for our patients experiencing financial toxicity of cancer treatment. Thank you for helping us raise these funds. More great news to follow. 


Update 8/15/2021: Naples Island Circumnavigation
As of today, August 15th we completed the Naples Island Swim - here is an update:

It is time for the update of our fundraising Naples Island swim. First of all, we all finished and (except for me) beat their personal records. Most importantly we crossed into five-figure territory (now total raised is $10,720 for all swims with 151 supporters) THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR GENEROSITY. If you think you missed the boat, we will continue fundraising, so don’t hesitate and GO TO: HTTPS://GIVEBUTTER.COM/1000M_SWIM and you may donate to the whole team or select a team member. This money goes directly to the patients of the Todd Cancer Institute who experience financial toxicity that I was writing about with some scientific data in my posts over the past few weeks.

The Long Beach team (from the left, Chris, Alex, Mariusz, Bridget, and Stevie) photo credit Marta Niemierko:


The Polish team in the UK:


HERE ARE THE RESULTS: They all swam that day and added 8 miles (12874.8 meters) to the meters I swam. If we add their distances with mine, we will get a total of 27,759.8 meters. I am so happy and proud of my Beat the Odds team with everyone finishing but there are cherries on top - keep reading:

Our black horse Bridget placed 1 in her age category and 10th overall calcification finishing 1 mile in an incredible time of 28:07 minutes.. And she has raised $350 so far and plans to raise more in the coming days and weeks.

My niece Zuza, swam in the cold waters of south-western England with the weather not cooperating and completed the swim under 44 minutes 1 mile. Due to the 8 hour time difference, they started shortly before 7 pm. Here is her graph:


My nephew Jeremi swam with her for safety and most likely got the same time.

Stevie finished 5th in her age group in 1 mile - with the time 54:41

Alex also placed 2nd in his age category in 1 mile with the time 54:40 (Stevie and Alex are a couple and it is romantic that they stick to each other and there was an only 0.01-sec difference. I saw where they placed overall but it slipped my mind (my mind gets more and more slippery with exertion).

Our other black horse, Chris swam the distance of 3 miles at 1:35:52 and placed 240 among over 520 simmers registered (28th in his age group). This is a very impressive time and place. He surprised himself too.

We had our black horses and one old jade. I, (Mariusz) got very strong humility, empathy, and endurance lessons - At 40 minutes I got cramps going through all my lower limbs muscles (another lesson, in anatomy I didn’t prepare for) - you can see the dip on my graph- and stayed with me for the duration of my swim with most of the time “uncomfortably numb" alternating with acute pain. AT the finish line I could barely walk out on my own. To make it even more “palatable” I got sick and you can see the dip on the graph at about 1:20. That is nothing in comparison to what our patients experience. Eventually, I finished the whole 3 miles (or maybe more due to “żygzaging” and tried to be away from the other swimmers). I placed 285 with the time 2:21:27 in 3 miles - a much longer time than I was prepared to swim. I burned the most calories though since I keep a record - 2,322 but don't be jealous. Here is my graph:


I was saved by the reassuring words of our foster daughter Marta Niemierko (student at Chapman University) and who was also guarding our sandy possessions. Also, the lifeguards on the boats were encouraging particularly LifeGuard Valerie, who stuck with me from minute 40 when my head went underwater to stretch my L calf and hamstring and was always within my sight providing encouraging words. 

Thank you all and we plan to do it again next year (and in between).

In the media

Our Naples Island swim was mentioned in the Press-Telegram ( and the World Open Water Swimming Association News https://www.openwaterswimming....

The previous update, when we signed up. 
So far I swam a total of 10,057 meters (6.25 miles) in 4 swims. We raised so far $8,700 from 114 generous supporters so for the first time I am ahead and didn’t get any new donations for the past 3 months. We want to reenergize and rejuvenate this fundraiser. Rejuvenate by recruiting much younger team members like Alex, Bridged, Chris, and Stevie for a swim around Naples Island on August 15th. Please, if not mine, support their efforts by generously donating. The whole distance is 3 miles (4,828 meters) and the goal was raised accordingly to $14,885 to keep my $1/1m ratio (but if we add all other team members swimming distances, we will be very much ahead of that goal). Also, at the same time, my niece Zuza and nephew Jeremi will swim in from Breakwater Beach, Brixham, in Devon County, south-west England (UK).


My friend and colleague, Wojtek Falkowski, joined our fundraising team. While we will be swimming around Naples Island on August 15, he will swim 1600 meters in the river Brda, in Bydgoszcz (Poland), the city where my mother’s side of the family comes and I did my residency training in radiation oncology.


Update: Last swims on 4/30/2021 and 5/1/2021

I was confident, that I can swim 3,000 meters and then some in a balmy 62 F (17 C) water. In reality (pic 1 & 2), I swam only 2,628 meters (less even than in February when I did 2,736 m in 55 F water). There were several mistakes: not enough sleep the night before, a CrossFit session early in the morning before the swim, not enough high-energy food for breakfast. Then I was having constant feet, calf, and left hamstring cramps that started at minute 26 and lasted until the end. So, this morning, after a good recovery, I did the additional swim in a pool (pic 3) and made 1,537 meters bringing the total to 10,057 meters (6.25 miles). We raised so far $8,700 from 114 supporters so for the first time I am ahead (and raised the fundraising goal to reflect the meters swam).

Quick update 4/27/20201 - The financial toxicity of cancer is still huge and affects a lot of families that as a result experience food shortages, choices between gas to get to the appointments, or making rent payments. Fortunately, thanks to the generosity of people like you, we have now the means to support these patients. The next swim is Friday,  April 30 at 9 am. It will be quick if we don't get more donations. So far we have raised $7,528 from 101 supporters (much more than we initially expected.  Thank you all so much. I gave a total of $7.000.00 (in the picture with Lisa Poormon, Executive Director of the Todd Cancer Institute receiving the second installment of $4000.00)


I swam so far 5,892 meters so I have a balance of only 1,636 meters to match 1m/$1 what we raised so far. I am confident I can swim twice the distance, so please donate here at

It started as a modest quick fundraiser to meet an urgent need

More and more patients and their families suffer food shortages and have difficulty paying for utilities, mortgages, and other bills. Sometimes they don't have gas to get for their appointments. At the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, we are committed to helping patients achieve the best treatment outcomes with the best clinicians, best technologies, best psychosocial and supportive services. Still, without food, with worry about your bills, and with no way to get to appointments and treatments, the outcomes can't be that good. So, we want to find solutions. However, it takes time to set up fundraising campaigns and establish special funds to reach the needed families. And the money is needed now. 

So, quite spontaneously, for my birthday, I planned to do an open water swim 1000 meters without a wetsuit (the water temperature in the Alamitos Bay was 55 F  or 14 Celcius) and raise $1000.00.  It was an ambitious goal considering that we had only 5 days before the swim on 2/20/2020 and that I only used my profile on Facebook and had no time for real fundraising. I have never swum such a distance in such cold water, so there was this insecurity. But that is nothing in comparison to food insecurity that many families now experience.

The Swim
The generosity of everyone surpassed any expectations and by the time of the swim on Saturday, 2/20/21 at 10:30 am we raised over $3300. I was prepared to swim 1000 m but ended up swimming 2736 meters in a little over an hour. 

By the time of this writing raised over $4,000.00 for financially strapped patients undergoing cancer treatments. 



On Friday, 2/19/2021, before the swim, I gave $3000.00 to Lisa Poormon, the Executive Director of the MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute in the presence of Cindy Gotz, DHSc., MPH, the Director of Business Operations, Lori Tritto MSN, OCN, NPD-BC, Holly Adams, LCSW, one of our social workers who will be distributing the funds, and the hospital foundation staff including Klementina (Tina) X. Sula Vice President of Major Gifts. You can see me holding my vegan birthday cake as they threw a surprise birthday party for me.



The funds are becoming available to patients starting Monday, 2/22/2021. It is incredible - in one week we were able to make such a difference. Such a joy it is to have such wonderful people with such generous hearts like yours.

WOWSA noticed us 

BTW, thanks to coach Steven Munatontes we made it to to the World Open Water Swimming Association News

The Grunion Gazette noticed us 
"Mariusz Wirga, M.D., has raised more than $4,000 to help patients at MemorialCare Todd Cancer Institute, by doing open water swims without a wetsuit in Alamitos Bay, where the water was about 55 degrees. He's still accepting donations. Go to"

The Second Swim

Thanks to the generosity of all supporters the donations kept pouring in that meant the balance of my swim kept growing.  So I was planning to do the second swim on March 7th. I was prepared to swim 3,000 meters so we increased the fundraising goal to $5,736. I ended up swimming 3,156 meters (for the total of 5,892 meters for both swims) but the next day generous donors brought a total of raised funds to $6,128 and the donations keep pouring in (so I owe another swim).  So please keep donating and we will announce the third swim in April. The water gets warmer so give fast while it is still an additional challenge ;) 

Thank you for helping us. Please share the link:

Kind regards,



164 supporters

$27,759 goal

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Mariusz Wirga