Swimming to save the bay: Buzzards Bay Swim reels in $120,000

Jun 24, 2016

Until two and a half years ago, Tom Hannon had never swam before. On Saturday, he splashed his way through a 1.2 mile course in the 23rd annual Buzzards Bay Swim alongside his wife, Linda. The Onset residents, along with nearly 250 other swimmers, helped raise $120,000 to protect and keep the bay's water clean.

“I was very motivated after [Linda] did it last year,” he said. “I'm still concerned about the swimming I'm doing: I've never swam that long in an event.”

Though he was nervous and asked his wife to stick next to him, the newbie finished the entire swim in 42 minutes -- four minutes earlier than his wife.

"I told him, 'it's because I was looking for you!'" Linda joked. "They began the race and he just took off!"

Tom began taking swimming classes at the Gleason Family YMCA under the instruction of their Aquatics Director Mel Dyer. He said he was scared to learn at first, and got pulled out of the deep end.

Two years later, he's pushing himself and testing his limits.

Tom did the swim in preparation for an Ironman triathlon, where he plans to swim 2.4 miles, bike 114 miles, and run 140 miles.

A resident of Onset for four years now, Tom has summered in Swifts Beach for decades. He currently owns a publication business on Main Street, while his wife Linda serves as treasurer of the Onset Bay Association.

Last year, she was a swimmer and her husband was a kayaker. This year, Tom hoped to raise $2,000.

"My mother helped me raise over $1,000 for the event," he said. "She went around soliciting a bunch of people. It's a good cause, considering what they're doing."

The money will go toward the Buzzards Bay Coalition's education, conservation, research, and advocacy programs. In Wareham, the Coalition is raising funds to renovate the Onset Beach bathhouse into an educational center, and has acquired Wickets Island as part of that project.

Tom said he's excited to be a part of the bathhouse rehabilitation.

“I feel really positive about it. The community needs this,” he said. “It'll change the bathhouse as a destination. I think it'll be really good for the town.”

Linda said the event was "well organized" and that the energy created by the event would be useful in the Coalition's future projects.

"It's pretty incredible to think these guys will be buying Wickets Island and doing things in Onset," she said. "They just do such a nice job."

Coalition President Mark Rasmussen said the swim was one of the biggest the organization has hosted in 23 years. It drew participants from 120 communities in 15 states, including as far as away as Alaska, Washington and Florida. Swimmers ranged in age from 12 to 76.