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John Donlon’s Challenge

John Donlon, a self-described, “ordinary Joe” who didn’t play sports in college, is doing something fewer than 1,700 people have ever done – swim the English Channel. And he’s using the occasion to raise awareness and funds for the American Liver Foundation, through our “Make a Difference” fundraising.

John, a New England Division Board Member, has a close and personal connection with ALF. Back in 2004, he wanted to run the Boston Marathon and ALF was recommended to him as member of the Marathon’s Official Charity Program. His late father had hemochromatosis, a chronic condition in which the body absorbs and stores too much iron, so he joined the team. He has run the marathon for ALF every year since, except for 2006 and 2016 when he was training for other events. He became acquainted with his wife while running with the Liver Team during the 2005 Boston Marathon and says she and their three children, eight year-old twins and a six year old), have been very supportive.

Every Channel swimmer has a unique experience; the weather conditions and tides change constantly. John had to join a sponsoring organization and arrange for a boat pilot to guide him along. Swimmers set aside one week (September 29th to October 4th in John’s case) and are notified by the boat pilot 12 to 24 hours in advance that the weather looks safe enough for crossing. The boat will carry an official observer to certify that John follows the rules and completes the swim from Dover to the coast of France, without touching the boat. Two companions, his father-in-law and a good friend, will also be there to encourage John and pass him fruit and warm water for hydration, energy and to stave off hypothermia.

Gail C. Favreau, Executive Director, NE Division, said, “We are extremely excited and proud of John’s determination to swim the English Channel, arguably the most difficult challenge in open water swimming, to benefit the American Liver Foundation. He is not only attempting this feat to raise awareness and resources to combat liver disease, but also provide an example to his three children that difficult obstacles can be overcome with effort and imagination and we couldn’t agree more.

Last Updated on May 20, 2020


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