Navy SEALs will brave the Hudson River to help homeless vets
JERSEY CITY — You may have taken a ferry to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty before ... but would you dare attempt to swim there?
A group of more than 30 Navy SEALs will be doing that on Saturday, Aug. 3, to raise money to get hundreds of homeless veterans off the streets in both New Jersey and New York City.
The first-ever Navy SEAL Hudson River Swim and Run, which is also the first legally sanctioned swim across the Hudson, is the brainchild of former SEAL Bill Brown. The beneficiary is the Newark-based GI Go Fund, whose mission it is to support veterans and their families with housing, health care, employment, and other services.
GI Go Fund co-founder and executive director Jack Fanous was skeptical that such an idea would be able to gain the approval of the New York Police Department, the New York City Fire Department, the New Jersey State Police, or the Port Authority -- much less all of them.
"I'll be honest with you, I thought it was impossible," Fanous said. "I thought they would never allow it. I thought they would never let anybody get in the water and swim across the Hudson."
But they did, and now the SEALs get an opportunity to put "their bodies where their mouths are," as Fanous put it, and embark on a swim that covers about two miles total. Beginning at Liberty State Park, participants will swim to the Statue of Liberty, then Ellis Island, then Battery Park in lower Manhattan. After all that, the group will head out on a run to the 9/11 Memorial to finish the event.
At each stop, the SEALs will also do 100 push-ups and 25 pull-ups. Fanous encourages spectators to join in the push-ups if they desire.
For Lt. Cmdr. Kaj Larsen, who will be one of the swimmers in August, the location and the aim are personal. His roommate in SEAL training was killed in Afghanistan in 2005. They were in training on 9/11, at which time the roommate's father was with the FDNY. So he has been pleasantly surprised with how readily all of the different agencies in and around the city have pitched in to help.
That has made it easy for Larsen to put this charitable event into perspective, separating it from the dangers many in the military face both on active duty, and when they return home.
"It'll be nice for a change to sneak into a target and not have to worry about opposing forces trying to get us," he said.
For more information visit gigo.org/sealswim.
Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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