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23 AUGUST 2019

Board Member John Donlon Swims to Raise Awareness for ALF

John Donlon went into the water at 8:33 am on the dreary morning of July 18, 2019.  Over the next nine and a half hours he swam from New York City’s Battery Park, up the East River, through the Hell’s Gate, navigated the Harlem River, passed the turbulent Spuyten Duyvil (called “spitting devil” by early Dutch settlers), and headed down the busy Hudson, a distance of 28.5 miles.  As he circumnavigated Manhattan, he swam under the 20 Bridges for which this event was named.  They ranged from the famous Brooklyn and George Washington Bridges to some that drivers barely notice as they cross on local streets into the Bronx.

Organized by New York Open Water, participants are protected from marine traffic in the busy waterways and provided with an accompanying kayak, a boat for the support crew and official observer and police boat escort to ensure that they remain on course and have “feeds” during the grueling trek.  “Quiet swims” like John’s have only two entrants; event dates have 16.  The 20 Bridges is one leg of the triple crown of open water swimming.  The others are the English Channel swim, which John completed in October 2016, and the Catalina Channel Swim, which he is currently swimming. As of 4:31 AM PDT John Donlon was six hours into his swim, swimming in the open ocean, in the dark for 8 hours and still has several more hours to go.

Why is all this important to the American Liver Foundation?  John is a valued member of our New England Division’s Board.  He became part of the extended ALF family in 2004 as a Boston Marathoner, raising funds for ALF through the Marathon’s Official Charity program.  Since then, he’s run the Marathon for ALF numerous times, raised more than $10,000 with his Channel swim, and organizes an annual half marathon (the 3 Beach Minimum Half Marathon) along several of the beaches near his home on Boston’s South Shore.

What makes John run, swim and raise funds to fight liver disease? “For me,” he says, “it’s a great opportunity to do three things at once: Chase an athletic goal, give my kids a tangible example that even the craziest dreams are within reach, and raise awareness and funds to combat liver disease. My dad had a form of liver disease and while fortunately it didn’t impact his life too severely, it opened my eyes as to how misunderstood issues with the liver are and how underfunded liver research is.”

The American Liver Foundation salutes all the various athletes who compete in our name. Tough Mudders, ironmen, race car drivers, marathon runners and swimmers, like John, all push their bodies in the name of better liver health for all. Go Team ALF!

Tom Nealon
President & CEO
American Liver Foundation

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