Artwork for our 18th Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare!

Each year a local artist creates a custom design for the event t-shirts for Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare. We are incredibly pleased with the amazing work that Lisa Cowden did for the 2021 event. The design is a paper cut out and really captures the spirit of our Go the Distance event. Read more about her background and connection to hospice below.

An Artist Perspective By Lisa Cowden

The Finger Lakes region has been my home for more than 40 years, and if there has been a constant while I’ve lived here it is the enduring beauty of the landscape graced by the transformation of the seasons. I live in the woods, and my studio overlooks an old meander of a creek that goes over Taughannock Falls, and is visited every spring by optimistic wood ducks and the occasional stern heron; it’s a meditative space and suits me well.

No matter how often and how far I ventured out to find work as an illustrator and designer whether it happened to be for Cornell, Corning, or the New York Times, or I was creating my own body of work for an exhibition, the fulfilling and inspiring solitude of nature has always been right outside my window and this room has seen many an ebb and flow of all kinds of projects.

I went to Berkeley. I traveled. I became a certified Montessori teacher, raised goats, children, eventually got an MFA from Syracuse University in surface pattern design, and wrote and illustrated two cookbooks.

Much, if not all of that, is behind me; but I’m still ruining fancy scissors by using them to cut paper and I keep making stuff because it turns out artists don’t retire.

And if I look outside now, I can see that the skunk cabbage is in its glory and the maple leaves are just beginning to unfurl.

I am so happy to have been asked to make the artwork for Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare 2021. When my mother was dying and my brother and I were desperate for support and guidance, we could not have navigated the situation as well as we did without help. It was a long time ago, and in California, but I still remember someone from hospice calling me a year after my mother passed away to see how I was doing. I’m still grateful for that.

Wintering and Cold Water Swimming: An Exploration in Radical Self Care During the Pandemic

by Laura Ward, LMFT, CT

“When it’s really cold, the snow makes a lovely noise underfoot, and it’s like the air is full of stars.”

Katherine May

The water is completely still under a brilliant sky, layers of light beneath a canopy of dark clouds. The moon shone brightly above us.  Walking into the lake, I admire the tiny shards of shell glittering on the rocks below, each shard clear and defined in the calm water. As we swim, I can feel the cold reaching all the way to my center, reminding me to just be, to breathe deep. Walking away, I carry the lake within me, calm and shimmering.

I wrote this reflection after completing my second cold water swim in Cayuga lake with my co-worker Sara Worden, Assistant Director of Community Engagement.  Cold water swimming has been shown to have numerous physical and mental health benefits and many people engage in the practice regularly. 

I became interested in this practice after reading the book Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat During Difficult Times by Katherine May, which is the book featured in our upcoming community book discussion. 

In the chapter “Cold Water Swimming”, Katherine talks about the mental health benefits and comradery of cold water swimming. Many people are using cold water swimming to help them cope with the many losses experienced during the pandemic. It’s a safe activity that can help swimmers feel connected to the healing powers of nature and other humans.

Book Discussion: March 4th with Laura Ward via Zoom. Register here.

Then, while talking with Sara, I discovered that she had had just booked American ice, open water and endurance swimmer, Jaimie Monahan, to speak at an upcoming event for the Women Swimmin’ community.  After marveling at the coincidence of our shared interest and the intersection of our upcoming events, we decided to give cold water swimming a try for ourselves and committed to six swims over a two-week period. 

Virtual Presentation: March 18 via Zoom. Register here.

It has been an exhilarating experience and one that has reminded me that I need to continue to stretch out of my comfort zone and look for new ways to stay healthy and care for myself as we approach the year mark of the pandemic and social distancing. To many, this might sound like a rather extreme example of self-care and I agree. 

However, we invite you to join us in reflecting on what you might need to keep going during these challenging times.  We hope that you will be inspired by Katherine May or Jaimie Monahan as you contemplate how to answer this question for yourself.

In Gratitude…

This time of year we traditionally gather with friends and family. That may look a little different this year, but we can still cultivate gratitude in our hearts. 

November is also National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, a time to pay special recognition to the work done every day by these skilled individuals, whose dedication to Hospicare’s mission has withstood even a global pandemic.

The story of Norma Helsper (as told in the video below) highlights the continuous service our interdisciplinary team has provided to all those that need our care in our community. 

We also wish to honor those advocates, volunteers, referral partners, and donors whose support sustains the good work of Hospicare. We thank YOU for all the many ways you support Hospicare!

VIDEO: Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare goes virtual!

Women Swimmin’ 2020 – We’re going this distance!We hope you will join us this year for Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare. We’re going the distance (virtually)! Whether you’ve been a past swimmer, paddler, Kayak Safety Team member, volunteer, or spectator — or if this is your first year ever participating — you are invited to join us for what promises to be a unique, fun community endeavor. Join us for our VIRTUAL COMMUNITY EVENT, now thru August 8. Open to all! All ages, all genders, all activities, all together!

16th Annual Women Swimmin’ – we made a splash!

WOW! We did it! YOU did it!!

340 lake and lap swimmers, 170 escort boaters, 172 volunteers, hundreds of spectators, 4,000+ donors… and more than $415,000 raised for Hospicare & Palliative Care Services!

A special message from Kim De Rosa, Hospicare’s Executive Director.

Our hearts are full with gratitude and awe, and we are glowing. We hope you are, too. This community is exceptional!

What a year! At the last minute we found out our bus company had gone out of business, but we were rescued by Ithaca City School District. Then we had some late morning wind that made for some challenging swimming and boating, but we are happy to say that every last swimmer was able to complete her swim.
We did it, and we raised over $435,000 dollars!
Escort Boaters and members of the Kayak Safety Team are essential parts of the event, and we could not do it without you!
Whether you were picking up trash, signing in swimmers, or taking donations, VOLUNTEERS are an essential part of the event, and we could not do it without you!
A good time was had by all! Thank you to everyone for supporting Hospicare & Palliative Care Services!

Tips & Tricks for Registration Day 2018!

Gearing Up for Women Swimmin’ 2018

On the morning of Saturday, August 11, 2018 Cayuga Lake will be bustling with activity for the 15th Annual Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare.  Women Swimmin’ is a community swim—not a race—that raises money to support of the work Hospicare & Palliative Care Services. More than 300 women will swim 1.2 miles across Cayuga Lake that day escorted by nearly 200 boaters and supported onshore by 100 volunteers. Dozens of other women will be swimmin’ laps in pools in Tompkins and Cortland counties, across the country and even around the world in the months leading up to August 11.

Photo by Frank Leahy

Women Swimmin’ is Hospicare’s largest fundraising and community outreach event of the year.  Many of the services we provide to our community are possible because of the generous support we receive though Women Swimmin’. Obviously, all of us at Hospicare think it’s a wonderful event, but you don’t need to take our word for it!  The following is what some past participants have said about Women Swimmin’.

From women who swam across Cayuga Lake:

  • “My favorite part of Women Swimmin’ is the sense of community, joy and love on the day of the event, meeting new people, and knowing that I’m helping a family receive the end of life support the need.”
  • “It was one of the most beautiful and powerful days of my life and I can’t wait to do it again and again. The greeting I received coming out of the water from one of the volunteers moved me to tears.”
  • “I believe in the purpose, in Hospicare. The swim is a wonderful way to raise money and give back. Swimming across the lake I swim with all I have lost. Shadow swimmers beside me crossing the lake on a beautiful morning.”

From women who swam Laps:

  • “It just feels good to do something that is good for the community as well as for your own health.”
  • “I loved being able to swim Laps because I couldn’t make it back home to Ithaca for the swim! It was fun to stay involved despite being farther away.”

From some of our boaters:

  • “Rain or shine, wind or calm, it’s a great day. A chance to be on the water, do good, honor those that are gone, celebrate with those that are here, and help promote an extremely important and worthy cause.”
  • “It is a fantastic way to support friends, families and Hospicare. In a world that is full of negatives, this is a celebration of Life.”
  • “Hospicare was my family’s blessing a few years ago. I was glad to give back to them!”

If you’d like to join us for Women Swimmin’, as a swimmer, boater or volunteer, here’s what you need to know to participate in this year’s event:

  • Lake Swimmer registration will open May 7 at 6:00 AM. In past years swimmer registration filled in 2 to 3 hours, so if you’d like to swim the lake this year, we suggest you plan on setting your alarm for 6:00 AM on registration day. This year’s event is eagerly anticipated by women in our community–and beyond. Some will even come from other states and other countries to participate!
  • Boater registration opens April 15 and will be ongoing until August 5.
  • Women Swimmin’ Laps–where swimmers swim at their own pace in a swimming pool of their choice– opened for registration March 15 and will be ongoing until August 10.
  • Volunteer –registration opens May 15. We rely on the help of over 100 volunteers to make Women Swimmin’ possible!

For regular updates on the 2018 event, “like” Women Swimmin’ on Facebook.

For more information, visit www.womenswimmin.org

Women Swimmin’ 2017 a Success!

On Saturday, August 12, 2017, 284 women gathered to swim across Cayuga Lake (a distance of 1.2 miles). They were escorted by 150 boaters in kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards and powerboats. And they were supported on shore by 130 volunteers who helped out at Cass Park, the Ithaca Yacht Club, the swim entry on the east shore, and in the days and weeks before the swim. Joining these swimmin’ women in spirit, if not in person, were 38 women who swam laps in pools throughout our community and around the world!

The women who decide to participate in Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare do so for many reasons. Some are swimming in memory or honor of a loved one who received hospice services. Some are swimming because they understand the importance of hospice services and want to make sure Hospicare will be here to support their family someday. Others swim for the physical challenge or the camaraderie of this community swim. One reason they all swim was proudly declared on our t-shirts, buttons and posters: “I swim to celebrate life.”

Some of the Hospicare Angelfish – our staff who swam for Women Swimmin’ 2017

At its very essence, hospice is a philosophy of care that celebrates life. Hospicare’s mission is to support our patients so they can live their lives as fully as possible, for however much time is left. Our team of skilled professionals and trained volunteers work together to provide physical, emotional and spiritual comfort to our friends and neighbors who are dealing with terminal illness. All of us here today, plus thousands of donors around the world, have come together to make sure that care continues.  To make sure everyone in our community can receive the hospice and palliative care they need to live their lives fully, regardless of whether they have insurance or means to pay.

Celebrating life and living life fully means different things to each of us. Obviously, it can mean swimmin’ or boatin’ across Cayuga Lake, or back and forth in a pool!

For some of the people we support, living life fully might mean:

  • a portable oxygen tank so he can go out to dinner with friends or watch a grandchild’s ball game.
  • a wheelchair and a raised garden bed so she can get outside and plant flowers
  • a volunteer to help her sort through and organize family photos
  • a social worker–and others–trying to make sure a beloved pet finds the right next home
  • a grief support group with others who are also grieving the death of someone they love

Most of all, it means there is an entire Hospicare team to make the burden of caregiving and dying just a bit easier.

All of us at Hospicare are immensely grateful for these swimmers and boaters who have given of their time and put forth great energy to fundraise for Hospicare. We also appreciate the volunteers and boaters, the friends and families who have supported our swimmers, and also to the corporate sponsors and underwriters who covered the expenses associated with the event. We truly could not support our community in all the ways we do without your amazing support.

Thank you!

No One Swims Alone

No one swims alone. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve said or typed that phrase in the seven years I’ve worked at Hospicare and been involved with Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare. It’s an important part of our Women Swimmin’ event—that no swimmer should be alone as she crosses Cayuga Lake. She should always be with an escort boat and ideally with other swimmers. Many swimmers and boaters say their favorite part of Women Swimmin’ is the community of the event and seeing so many other swimmers and boaters around them in the lake. It can be intimidating to be in the middle of a big, deep lake, but our swimmers are not alone out there.

The women who are swimming laps as part of Women Swimmin’ Laps for Hospicare are also not swimmin’ alone. They’re in pools with a certified lifeguard watching to make sure they’re safe. Some laps swimmers are part of a Women Swimmin’ team, who are fundraising together. Even if each swimmer is swimming her laps solo, she joins in the sisterhood of Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare. She is swimmin’–just as 1400 other women have swum over the years—to raise funds that support quality, end-of-life care for our community. While she swims her laps, she carries with her the memory of friends and family who have been served by Hospicare.

I’ve come to learn, and our Women Swimmin’ participants know or have learned, that “no one swims alone” is not just a Women Swimmin’ protocol but also a mantra for hospice care. Our staff and volunteers work together, as a team, to care for and support our patients and their families. Hospice is unique in that the focus of care is not only the patient’s physical needs, but also their spiritual and emotional needs, and those of their loved ones.

Our interdisciplinary team of staff and volunteers work together to anticipate and meet the various needs of our patients and their families. Some of those needs are medical (medications, medical equipment, personal care); other needs are logistical, emotional or spiritual. Whatever the need, there is someone on the Hospicare team who will make sure that need is met.

The journey of illness, death and grief is a difficult one. Your support of Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare means that our patients and their loved ones won’t have to make the journey alone. Hospicare will be there, with skilled staff and trained volunteers to provide the support, guidance and care that’s needed.

Because no one swims alone.


Melissa Travis Dunham was previously our manager of community relations at Hospicare. She was the event coordinator and helped organize Women Swimmin’ for four years.

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