Friday, June 12, 2015

Seven area teens prepare to be among youngest swimmers in the 39th Annual Save The Bay Swim

by Cindy Sabato, director of communications

Pictured (left to right):  Sophia Caracuzzo, Santino
Depasquale, Ben Cassese, Caroline Cassese, Nathan Housberg,
Callie Hayes (not pictured: Emily Favreau)
Seven teenagers from Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut are gearing up for the 39th annual Save The Bay Swim, a 1.7-nautical-mile open-water swim from Naval Station Newport on Coaster’s Harbor Island across the East Passage to Jamestown’s Potter Cove. For five of those teenagers, the Swim will be the first, and longest, open-water swim of their lives. Another finished the Swim last year with one of the fastest times among all 500 swimmers. And another is currently a leader in the Swim’s fund raising effort.

Santino Depasquale, 17, of Warren has been swimming all his life, is a lifeguard at his local YMCA, and is hoping to become a rescue swimmer in the U.S. Coast Guard, so he figures the Save The Bay Swim is right up his alley. His father told him about the Swim, and although this is the first long-distance, open-water swim for him, the Mt. Hope High School student is the fourth top fund raiser so far. “It’s pretty crazy swimming across the bay, but it’s a great cause. I’ve gotten a lot of support from people in my town and school who really like Save The Bay. My donations have come from people who want to support me and who want to help out the Bay and the community,” Depasquale said. To date, he has raised $2,175 of his $4,000 goal. Support Santino’s swim.

Caroline Cassese, of East Greenwich, who just turned 15 – the minimum age required to participate - on June 4, is the youngest swimmer registered for the Swim. Inspired to do the Swim by her brother Benjamin, Caroline has been swimming since she was about seven, but has never done an open-water swim or a swim of this distance. “Most people I’ve told about it think Save The Bay is a good cause and want to help. A lot of my friends know Save The Bay from summer camps and field trips with school,” she said. But her biggest inspiration was Benjamin, who swam last year. “When Ben came out of the water last year, I knew right away I would do it this year,” she said. Support Caroline’s swim.

Benjamin Cassese, 17, also of East Greenwich, is doing his second Save The Bay Swim this year in his continued effort to give back. “I did summer programs with Save The Bay when I was younger, and those experiences were a big part of my appreciation for the Bay,” he said. He says his donor support is “equal parts people wanting to support me and people wanting to support the efforts of Save The Bay.” In addition to his fund raising efforts, the freestyle swimmer has inspired a joint team of swimmers from Moses Brown and Lincoln schools – students, coaches, community members, and parents – to participate in the Swim this year. As the only repeat swimmer of this group, Benjamin says the biggest challenge is “not being able to see the bottom, or your hands, or where you’re going,” so he encourages his fellow swimmers to train for that. Support Benjamin’s swim.

That Moses Brown/Lincoln school team also includes Callie Hayes, 16, of Seekonk, Mass. An endurance swimmer on her school’s club swim team for many years, Hayes was introduced to the Swim and encouraged to sign up by her high school swim coach and advisor, Ruffin Powell, who is also a member of the team. “I’m excited about swimming open water for the first time and about supporting Save The Bay. I’m new to fund raising, but I’ve been talking with a cousin who ran the Boston Marathon about how to ask people for support,” Hayes said. She and Ruffin have been talking every morning about how to train for the open water swim. “You can’t see where you’re going, and that could be disorienting. I need to train for that in particular,” she said. Support Callie’s swim.

Emily Favreau, 16, of Manchester, N.H. will be swimming her second Save The Bay Swim this year. Last year, the Loomis Chaffee School (Conn.) student finished the Swim with the seventh-fastest school among women, and the 26th fastest score overall. But then again, she's been swimming competitively since she was five years old and completed a two-mile swim in St. Croix at age nine. Still, as a cheerleader for her grandfather, Mark Formica, who’s been doing the Save The Bay Swim since 1997, she couldn't wait to do her first swim across Narragansett Bay.  “Last year, when I found out I was going to be part of such a wonderful event, I was ecstatic. The hardest part was navigation, and I was worried that I might miss markers or sight poorly. This year, I'm excited for another chance to swim this event without any of the worries I had as a first-timer," she said. To this year's first-timers, she says, "Just have fun and enjoy your time in the water, and remember what you are really swimming for — you must swim the bay to save the bay."  Support Emily’s swim.

Sophia Caracuzzo, 16, of Warwick, is following in the footsteps (or swim lane) of her mother, who has completed the Save The Bay Swim for the past three years. As a year-round swim team swimmer, her longest swim has been one mile in the pool. “I’m a little nervous, but I think it will be much more exciting than a long pool swim, which can be boring,” she said. The Pilgrim High School student says she’s getting a lot of support from friends, family and coaches. “They think it’s insane that I’m swimming across the Bay, but they also know it’s going to a really good cause,” she said. Plus, she says, she wants to beat her mom’s time and prove to herself that she can do it. This summer, Caracuzzo is volunteering at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport this summer with a goal of studying marine biology in college. Support Sophia’s swim.

Nathan Housberg, 18, of Jamestown, has been cheering on his swimming friends from the shore for years and is excited to be doing the Swim himself for the first time this year. He doesn’t have a big swimming background, but after training for a 1.2-mile open-water swim as part of an Iron Man Triathlon for his senior project at The Wheeler School, he was hooked. Now a student at Brown University, he sails in upper Narragansett Bay frequently and says, “I see a lot of trash in and on the water up here in Edgewood. It’s a really important cause. I’ve been talking to a lot of sailors about how they can help out with water quality and keep the Bay safe for everyone.” As the only teen in the group who has done an open-water swim, Housberg advised the others to do pool drills for siting, because “you can’t see in the Bay like you can in the pool.”  Support Nathan’s swim.

The 39th annual Save The Bay Swim will be held on July 11, 2015. Five hundred swimmers and some 200 kayakers between the ages of 15 and 83+ annually participate in the 1.7-nautical-mile journey from Naval Station Newport on Coaster’s Harbor Island across open water to Jamestown’s Potter Cove. One of the most storied open-water swims in the United States, the Save The Bay Swim celebrates tremendous progress in cleaning up Narragansett Bay since its first official Swim in 1977 and the organization’s founding in 1970. In the early years of the Swim, swimmers often emerged from the water with oil and tar balls on their skin and swimsuits.

About Save The Bay: Founded in 1970, Save The Bay works to protect and improve Narragansett Bay and its watershed through advocacy, education, and restoration efforts. It envisions a fully swimmable, fishable, healthy Narragansett Bay, accessible to everyone and globally recognized as an environmental treasure. 

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