Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Barbara Klitz family and friends swim as Community of Strength to honor cancer survivorship

By Spencer Gossy, Save The Bay Communications Intern

In one way or another, cancer affects everyone, whether through a family member, friend or oneself. Many times there is not much one can do to ease the pain of a loved one’s cancer battle, but friends and family can come together to encourage those struggling to beat his or her diagnosis. This idea of unfaltering companionship is the reason the Community of Strength formed in 2011 – to make sure Barbara Klitz met her goal to complete her 15th Save The Bay Swim since 1979 after being diagnosed with thymic carcinoma and Myasthenia gravis in late 2010.

The Klitz family considers itself one that celebrates life by helping one another locally and globally. Beyond generating donations for Save The Bay, the Community of Strength also raises funds for Myasthenia gravis and the American Cancer Society. Last year, at least 10 people, including Klitz’s children, swam together for her and Save The Bay as representatives of the entire Community of Strength – its largest team of swimmers since its formation in 2011. The Community of Strength goes far beyond the reach of Narragansett Bay with 60+ supporters who all pledge donations to the various foundations that the Klitz family endorses. The Community of Strength will convene once again this Saturday to brave the water, honoring and following in Klitz’s footsteps.

The Klitz family celebrates with Jonathan Stone after completing
the 39th Annual Save The Bay Swim
Klitz, who turns 61 this month, participated with her husband, Thomas Klitz, in their first Save The Bay Swim in 1979 after their graduation from the University of Rhode Island. According to her, she finished the race “before my husband of course.” The mother of Katie, Keeley, and Kevin and University of Rhode Island chemistry professor says that she often refers to Narragansett Bay as her “happy place.” That’s why she has been so dedicated to participating in the Save The Bay Swim – she simply wants to “work to raise awareness to keep Narragansett Bay viable for generations to come.”

Klitz says she swears by one motto in life – “all things can be solved by salt water.” She has spent countless hours on the bay swimming and walking alongside its waters enjoying the scenery. Although her health prevents her from swimming the 39th annual Swim on July 11, she will be kayaking alongside her son, Kevin, as he braves the 1.7-nautical-mile trek. In the water with Kevin will be his sister, Keeley, and a few Community of Strength team members including family friends and colleagues. Her husband, Thomas, will be kayaking for another team that was in need of one more team member.

Each year, 500 swimmers and some 200 kayakers between the ages of 15 and 83+ 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.