On December 27, 2020, on a brisk cloudy day in Northern California, David Miller turned his last length of the pool to wrap up an incredible feat. He had just finished swimming a million yards—the equivalent to a little over 568 miles—in one year. A crowd of his family and friends as well as hundreds of supporters watching via live stream cheered his success.
Earlier in the year, a colleague swam 750,000 yards for his 75th birthday. David was inspired to go even farther for his 60th birthday and to dedicate this challenge to all his loved ones that have been affected by cancer. His swim became a fundraising event for the Cancer Research Institute (CRI).
In preparation, David connected with the CRI fundraising team, some of whom he had worked with before on a previous fundraiser. He created a website (www.swimamillion.org) where his supporters could track his progress in real time, donate to his fundraising page, or read about the loved ones to whom he dedicated this journey.
"My father passed from lung cancer. My mom has survived three bouts of cancer. My sister has had cancer. A cousin, an uncle, an aunt, close friends. It seems like everyone I know has been touched or is dealing with cancer," David explained in an interview with Matt Boone from ABC7 Bay Area. "The physical challenge is for me," he said. "But I thought, if I'm going to do this I might as well raise some money as well."
David swam an incredible 3,500 yards a day for six days a week until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. This, combined with the 2020 California forest fires and the smoke that filled the air, presented a huge setback. Despite it all, David decided to focus on his swimming and fundraising.
“I thought to myself, ‘How can I ask people to give money when so many people are struggling just to get by?’ So I finally made the decision. There are people that can and there are people that can’t. There are people who will and there are people who won’t. You’ve just got to make a leap of faith, make the jump and go for it.”
Despite his initial worries, David received incredible support from his community. He even snagged a partnership with Zumo Swimwear and had Swim-a-Million apparel available for purchase for the weeks leading up to his event. The Cancer Research Institute was able to stream the event to our community via Facebook Live.
At the start of the event, David was $12,000 shy of his goal. Thanks to an incredible anonymous $10,000 donation and a flurry of other contributions, he not only met but smashed his goal, raising over $53,000 for cancer research.
David was incredibly moved by the support.
“It was a way for me to deal with all of the things that were surrounding us in this last year.... It was an extraordinary adventure, but it was also a way for me to get through this whole series of crises.”
Join David and other Team CRI members in raising critical funds to support high-impact cancer immunotherapy research programs.
Fundraise for cancer research
Photos by Brittany Hosea-Small.