By Celine Klosterman
Even after fighting cancer for 10 years, Cheyanne Boddicker’s grandfather often had a smile on his face, she recalled.
“He was such a strong person. I never heard him complain once.”
He passed away in February. But knowing the physical struggles he and other relatives endured due to cancer, she figures she can handle a physical challenge of her own: swimming the English Channel.
The member of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City plans to make the 21-nautical-mile swim in August 2011 to raise money to support cancer researchers at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa. “It’s the ultimate swimmer’s challenge,” Boddicker said.
A competitive swimmer since fifth grade, she said turning the venture into an opportunity to raise funds for a cause motivates her. “I wanted something inspiring to make this journey much more profound for me.”
That journey will be difficult due largely to conditions such as waves up to six feet high, 55-degree water and occasional jellyfish and driftwood. Boddicker will deal with such obstacles for 12-16 consecutive hours, during which time she’ll receive nutritious liquids and moral support from her brother Michael Boddicker and boyfriend Karl Kofmehl on a nearby “pilot boat.” She won’t be allowed to touch people or objects during the swim, but she’ll float or tread water during hourly rest breaks.
“I’m really psyched up for it, but there’s risk involved,” Boddicker said. A mixture of Vaseline and grease will help shield her skin from cold, but other variables are beyond her control. “So much depends on weather conditions. If they’re not cooperating, you could go home without even getting to try…. You hear stories of people who tried five times and never made it.”
Then there’s the mental factor. While making tens of thousands of repetitive strokes, Boddicker likes to say the rosary. “The prayer is very repetitive, and I’ll have that time to myself to think in the quiet with the bubbles of water behind my ears. Meditation will be a huge help because I’ll pretty much be inside my own head for 12-16 hours.”
But she said her supporters will be on her mind. They include Michael Boddicker, a staff sergeant in the National Guard who has been helping her train for about a year. “He is the only person who can push me harder than I can push myself,” she said.
Her father, Dan Boddicker, a member of St. Mary’s in Tipton, said he’s impressed by her goal of swimming the English Channel. “She’s kind of always dreamed about doing that. I think it’s great that she’s not just planning to, but trying to make it bigger than herself by raising money for cancer research. She’s a very capable young lady, and I’m very confident she can do it.”
So far, Cheyanne Boddicker has raised about half of the $6,900 cost of making the swim, which includes airfare, lodging, training, registration fees and other expenses. Donations exceeding those costs will go to the University of Iowa Foundation to support the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. She hopes to raise $25,000.
Even after the swim, Cheyanne Boddicker hopes to continue raising money for charitable causes. She has helped fundraise as an intern for a Baltimore theater company, but the experience left her feeling as if something was missing. “I felt like I needed to use my gifts to give back to God.”
So she’s studying for a master’s degree in philanthropy and development at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, Minn., with the goal of eventually working for a Catholic charity or school.
For now, she’s just looking forward to getting to Dover, a town on England’s southeast edge near the English Channel. “Then, the fundraising and training will be done. Just knowing we made it to Dover is going to be a triumph for me.”
Supporting a charitable cause is itself a success, she said. “What’s nice about doing this is that it’s not only about the swim.”
To donate, visit http://crossingforacure.com or request more information by writing to Crossing for a Cure, PO Box 3344, Iowa City, IA, 52244.