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Swim team kicks off season with 'Orange Out' childhood cancer fundraiser | PHOTOS

Cancer Survivors Elena Tate, 15, Cole Carter ,13, and Abby Boone ,11, swim a lap at the beginning of the Morningview Mantra Rays swim meet in Suwanee on Thurday evening. The swim meet, hosted by the Manta Rays, was an ‘Orange Out’ fundraiser for CURE Childhood Cancer. (Photo: Chris Roughgarden)

Cancer Survivors Elena Tate, 15, Cole Carter ,13, and Abby Boone ,11, swim a lap at the beginning of the Morningview Mantra Rays swim meet in Suwanee on Thurday evening. The swim meet, hosted by the Manta Rays, was an ‘Orange Out’ fundraiser for CURE Childhood Cancer. (Photo: Chris Roughgarden)

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SUWANEE — The Gwinnett County Swim League got its 2014 summer season off a big start Thursday, but no team started a season with more meaning than the MorningView Manta Rays.

That’s due to the third annual “Orange Out Swim 4 Cure” event the Manta Rays held during its season-opening dual meet with the Thunderbolts out of the Peachtree Ridge cluster.

This annual event has grown each year since its inception in 2012, which evolved out of an idea to raise money and create awareness for CURE Childhood Cancer, a nonprofit cancer research foundation dedicated to finding cures for childhood cancer.

For Thursday’s swim meet, the goal was to raise awareness, support and funds to fight childhood cancer, specifically leukemia in this situation after three neighborhood children were diagnosed with the disease over the past nine years.

“I work primarily with people in the community with the grassroots efforts to raise money and awareness,” said Paula Collins, development manager with CURE Childhood Cancer. “And what’s amazing is these three families have been through childhood cancer and they want to give back and give back quickly.

“Only three percent of federal dollars will go directly towards childcare cancer research. Most people don’t know federal funding is so small.”

“Orange” is the awareness ribbon color for leukemia and the MorningView Manta Rays’ swimmers, coaches and parents have rallied around these children by wearing orange during a meet for the past three years.

Thursday’s meet was no different as shirts, swim caps, shorts, hair and fingernails were some of the items that were easily identifiable with the bright color.

“This event highlights that this community cares,” said Melanie Creviston, who serves as co-chair to organize the event. “I have been involved in Team In Training, which is part of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. But most of the money that goes to major organizations like that doesn’t go to pediatric cancer.

“It took me 20-something years to figure it out, but there’s always something to help with and get involved. So I became aware of how I could contribute.”

Abby Boone, Elena Tate and Cole Carter each were diagnosed with leukemia at different times since 2005.

But the good news is each child has fought and won the battle against cancer, which was evident when the three swimmers hit the water together for a “Lap of Courage” prior to the beginning of the GCSL meet.

Each year, nearly 16,000 children are diagnosed with cancer and is the number one cause of death by disease for children.

So events like the “Orange Out Swim 4 Cure” not only gets the ball rolling to raise money to help in the research and treatment of cancer, it heightens the awareness that is needed to fight diseases like leukemia.

“The No. 1 goal is to find a cure for childhood cancer,” said Kim Boone, mother of Abby and organizer/co-chair of the event. “So all we can do is try to build awareness and raise donations.

“And this is so important to our neighborhood, because it has affected three children and families who have gone through the two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half years of treatment. It has touched our hearts and we can build the community support and awareness.”

What gives the folks of MountainView along with parents and children around the world hope is that the survival rate for childhood cancer has risen from less than 10 percent in the 1950s to nearly 80 percent now.

And when cancer hits home with three children from the same neighborhood, it creates a lasting bond.

“We didn’t know the Boones or the Carters until Elena was diagnosed,” said Mark Tate, father of Elena. “But we met Cole and the rest of his family and then the Boones. You feel alone when you first find out (about Elena’s diagnosis), but we quickly learned about the support and the close-knit community. We don’t have family here and it helped to be a part of that neighborhood effort to fight (cancer).”

Colleen Carter, mother of Cole, agreed.

“I think this is so important, because it’s three kids in one neighborhood that have been diagnosed with leukemia,” said Colleen. “It’s kind of interesting, because my son Cole was diagnosed in 2005 and then it was Elena and then Abby. So you start asking, ‘Who’s next?’ and you begin to wonder, because 1 in 330 kids will be diagnosed with cancer before they’re age 19.

“But it’s been great to see these other kids (in the neighborhood) be aware of what our kids have gone though, because they’re in school together and live together. They saw it when our kids were bald when they were going through treatment. So this is a great event, because kids love to help and get involved.”