The shoreline at Fire Island Lighthouse was abuzz with more than incoming surf Friday morning. One hundred swimmers, each accompanied by kayaker, geared up for the 5.25-mile journey that makes up the Maggie Fischer Memorial Great South Bay Cross Bay Swim.
The swim, which started in the 1920s and has gone on hiatus from time to time, returned in 1999. Fischer, 17, was to swim in the event, but was killed in a car accident just days before. That year, and every year since, it has been named in her honor, drawing hundreds of LIers to Gilbert Park in Brightwaters, the event’s finish line.
“We always feel her spirit here,” said Chris Fischer, Maggie’s brother, who has helped organize the event each year. “Especially when there’s sun like this — you just really feel her being here.”
The event raises funds for Hospice Care Network Children’s and Family Bereavement Program, as well as a scholarship fund in Maggie Fischer’s name. The swim brought in $10,000 in entry fees, with additional proceeds coming from sponsors and food vendors, who were to donate part of their profits from the day.
The first swimmer to finish was Thomas Dolan of Breezy Point, Queens, in 1 hour, 59 minutes. The 43-year-old has participated in the swim before, winning it in 2006.
“It’s really an adventure,” Dolan said. “I think this is a fantastic race and great cause, and I really hope they keep it up.”
For others the day is about family and feeling good. Coming in 17th place was Mark Sagliocca, 50, of Brightwaters, who swam with his 17-year-old son, Marco, guiding him from a kayak for the second time. Mark Sagliocca is a friend of the Fischer family and is grateful to them for running the event every year.
“It’s trying for a guy my age,” he said. “I’m proud to do it, and I’m proud to do it with my son.”