A High School Student from Berkeley, California, swam 28.5 miles around the island of Manhattan to raise funds for cancer research, and she is finally receiving the recognition that she deserves. Maya Merhige, at only 15 years old, swam the entire circumference of Manhattan in 8 hours and 43 minutes in an incredible display of selfless determination and stamina.
Maya found an impressive amount of motivation and drive by thinking about the families of cancer survivors who have it far worse than she did during her swim. “Whatever I’m doing in my swimming, or whatever pain I go through in my swims, it’s really nothing compared to the struggle that cancer families go through,” Maya said, according to ABC 7. “And that really pushes me to keep going forward.”
“Knowing that the money I’m raising makes a difference really encourages me to keep going,” Maya continued. “And through my fundraising, I hope that we can kind of end cancer.” Maya has managed to use her swimming talent to raise more than $60,000 to date for the organization called Swim Across America. She has been on this journey for the last eight years and shows no signs of slowing down.
Swim Across America is a charity whose creation was inspired by the Run Across America charity that gained fame in the 1980s. Now, SAA has raised over $100 million to help cancer researchers and families fight back against the deadly ailment. “Swim Across America, the official charity for swimmers,” the Swim Across America website states, “exists to raise money for our network of doctors and researchers who are the pioneers developing new cures and treatments to this dreaded disease. Michael Phelps and over 100 Olympians support SAA.”
Maya goes on to explain her reasons for swimming in more detail on the SAA site. “Last year,” she began,” we lost a family friend who sadly passed away from brain cancer (DIPG) in December 2022 at the age of 12. He was one of the most outgoing and adventurous kids I knew, and I just know that he would have loved to be in all of the awesome places that I get to go while swimming.”
Maya also added that it is not only that one family friend she swims for. “I swim for each and every single person that has ever been touched by cancer. Whether it’s for a patient, a doctor, a family member, or a friend, I swim for them all.”
The sight of a 15-year-old girl putting others first in such an extraordinary way puts the rest of life into perspective. Maya is more than willing to push her body to its limits for no reward. All that she asks in return is the knowledge that her swimming is helping those in need. And while it may be true that she wants nothing in return for her deeds, she is certainly deserving of recognition and praise from all who hear about her feats.
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