Last Summer, Charles Cantoni entered the icy waters off Alcatraz Island with Team Hydro to swim to San Francisco to raise funds an awareness for hydrocephalus research. At 87 years young, he became the oldest person ever to do so. Mr. Cantoni and his family plan to be at Aquatic Park again this year to cheer on his fellow Team Hydro Family of swimmers. As we ramp-up for this years swim, we paused for a moment to catch up with him as he reflects on his accomplishments from a year ago!
TEAM HYDRO (TH): It has been one year since you became the oldest person ever to participate in the Alcatraz Swim. What are your thoughts as you reflect back on the experience?
CHUCK CANTONI (CC): Looking back, I’m glad I was able to do the swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco, at age 87. Really pleased with my donors coming up with $18,000. Team Hydro is a first class foundation. I swam with a great bunch of swimmers, some very fast, none slower than me. The time I spent over close to 3 years in preparation for the swim was worth ever minute (swimming over 500 miles for endurance, learning about wet suits and learning to open water swim).
TH: It was wonderful to have you with us, and we are so happy you were up for the challenge. Your family has a personal connection to hydrocephalus, would you mind sharing a little bit about your family’s experience?
CC: Our third son Jason was born in 1972. He was afflicted with hydrocephalus at birth. On day 2 of his life he had his first shunt implanted, to be followed by more than 20 surgeries throughout his 51 years. We faced an unknown future but decided “we can do this.” Jason has lived and worked in Fairbanks, Alaska for 17 years and now resides in California. The keys for our family were to learn all about hydrocephalus, to be a team mate to Jason in working through all of the medical factors and to “Never Give Up.”
TH: Perseverance is certainly something we can all learn from the examples of the brave folks like Jason who are afflicted with hydrocephalus. How did you find out about Team Hydro? What led you to decide to join the Team Hydro Family?
CC: We found out about Team Hydro through their relationship with the Hydrocephalus Association. We joined the Team Hydro family to do our part to support hydrocephalus medical research and to help create awareness of hydrocephalus.
TH: We’ve been partnering with the hydrocephalus organization for over 15 years to increase funding for research — we are so delighted to felt inspired to join the cause like you did! It sounds like you had a great experience during the swim. What is one of your fondest memories from participating in the Team Hydro Alcatraz Swim for Hydrocephalus Research?
CC: My fondest memories are definitely of the generous response of my donors. Not only their donations, but the communication that went on between these generous folks and myself. If you are thinking of donating, include a message of encouragement (the donation software allows for it). You will then have a very appreciative happy swimmer. We all need an atta boy now and then!
TH: What, if anything, surprised you about your experience?
CC: Well, first off, I was surprised at how wet suits work and how to get in and out of them. Never had one in all these years. I was also surprised and happy that we could raise $18,000 (we started out with a goal of $5,000).
TH: So awesome that you continue to challenge yourself and learn and experience new things! How has becoming a member of the Team Hydro community impacted you and/or your family?
CC: We’re very pleased to see the work of the foundation regarding hydrocephalus. We’re very encouraged to see the research dollars being raised by Team Hydro go 100% to the grants. Oh, and Sam and Peter – they’re the best.
TH: You’re too kind. We are thrilled to be able to associate with so many amazing folks, like you and your son Jason and your wife, in the Team Hydro Family. We’re always looking for terrific people to welcome into the fold — be it as researchers, swimmers, towel-holders, or donors. What would you say to someone thinking about making a contribution to Team Hydro?
CC: There are a lot of fund raising activities going on that involve physical activities such as walk-a-thons, etc. Your swimmer who is asking for the donation is likely stepping out of his/her comfort zone to brave the chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay. Your donation will help convince them that the trip is worth it !!!
TH: There is nothing like the Team Hydro Alcatraz Swim for Hydrocephalus Research, that’s for sure! Our volunteer model ensures that 100% of the funds received from the swim go directly to research, so in addition to supporting the swimmer, donors can be confident they are making the most out of their donation dollars. Looking ahead to Saturday, 82 swimmers will be joining the cause again this year, many for the first time. What advice do you have for them?
CC: Far be it for me to give advice to those who know so much more about swimming than I do. Instead, I would say “Just go do it.” When you are half way across, spin around and take in the view. Darn few people ever get that chance. I tried that but the 2 foot chop obscured my view. May calm waters be with you.
TH: The Bay Swim is certainly an incredibly unique experience. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
CC: Well, yes. A very hearty thank you to you swimmers for jumping into the Bay to raise funds for hydrocephalus research. If you stop and think about it, it’s getting to San Francisco the hard way. And an equally hearty thank you to you donors for your kindness and generosity. WELL DONE.
TH: Thank you so much for your continued support and love for Team Hydro, Mr. Cantoni. We look forward to seeing you at Aquatic Park!