QUINCY -- Beth Calabotta's final request to her close friend, Carrie Company, was to keep the swim challenge going in her absence.
Knowing she would soon lose her eight-year battle with breast cancer, Calabotta wanted to ensure that the Beth Calabotta Swim Challenge would continue to raise money to fund research in order to help others battling cancer. On Saturday, Sept. 1, Company will uphold her vow to her late friend for the second time.
"Beth loved to swim, and she loved the kids," Company said. "She really appreciated what this sport did for people."
Calabotta was an avid swimmer, runner and cyclist. Her friendship with Company began in the pool, with a recommendation by Calabotta that Company focus more on her nutrition.
"She was never sad about her situation," Company said. "She was an amazing person -- brilliant and humble. We were kindred spirits."
When the second Beth Calabotta Swim Challenge was held in 2016, Calabotta knew her cancer had metastasized, and there was no cure. She died in March 2017.
The event raises, on average, $30,000 for metastatic breast cancer research each year. Two donors match 100 percent of the donations each year.
"Research is the only way we're going to put an end to it," Company said. "Beth knew nothing could be done for her, but she began researching how to help others after she was gone."
A small portion of the money raised is given directly to Blessing Hospital to help offset costs associated with traveling to the cancer center by patients. The rest of the money raised is donated to the Cancer Couch Foundation, a nonprofit organization for which Calabotta served as an adviser. Founded by Dr. Rebecca Timlin-Scalera, all money donated to the Cancer Couch Foundation goes directly to fund metastatic breast cancer research.
In October 2017, Timlin-Scalera was told that her cancer had mutated to the triple-negative type of metastatic breast cancer for which no treatments are available and for which the average prognosis is 18 months. Timlin-Scalera personally attended the first two Swim Challenges and presented checks matching a portion of the event's proceeds.
Company said Timlin-Scalera's recent medical issues add a deeper meaning to the Swim Challenge's cause and necessity.
A United States Masters Swimming event, the Swim Challenge will start at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Sheridan Swim Club. There will be one mile, 5K and 10K swims. The suggested donation for participation is $25. Company said previous years' participation numbers have ranged from 30 to 60.
The Swim Challenge kicks off the Endurance Company Epic Weekend, which also consists of 208 miles biking and 26.2 miles running and takes participants from Quincy to Columbia, Mo., over three days.
"So many of us bemoan the fact that we have to exercise and stay active," Company said. "At the end, Beth would say she wished she could do that."
Company wants people to take away from Calabotta's story the gratitude for life that her friend always exhibited.
"We need to really appreciate what we have in life," she said. "Beth's focus was really on giving back, and the Swim Challenge meant so much to her."