When the pools at Penn State Harrisburg were closed due to COVID-19, Holly McKenna needed to get creative if she still wanted to host her 9th annual Swim for a Cure.

Each year, McKenna swims for over 30 hours continuously while her many friends and family donate money to Penn State Harrisburg THON. The organization donates to Four Diamonds, who in turn pay the hospital bills of children battling cancer.

This year, McKenna would attempt an outdoor swim at Blue Marsh Lake in February.

“I would have done [Swim for a Cure] by myself had I been able to find a pool,” the Penn State Harrisburg swim instructor said. “It not have been as much fun, but I just didn’t want to let it go. I wanted to do it, so I just needed to find an alternative.”

Without a pool to swim in for almost an entire year, McKenna turned her attention to outdoor extreme swimming. She and a local group of ice swimmers have been training for months to acclimate their bodies to frigid temperatures.

“Swimming outside is so much more fun than swimming in a pool,” McKenna said. “It’s just so invigorating. Winter swimming is not sometihng you just do; we have been training since September.”

The pandemic has changed this annual indoor event, which typically raises over $4,000 over the course of her 30 hour swim. This year, the money is still pouring in even though the swim just lasted 11 minutes and 11 seconds, in just 31 degree water.

“I’m doing something crazy and silly,” McKenna said while in tears. “Swimming, which is fun, is all for the kids.”

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