Friday, July 12, 2019

SEALs for Sunshine undertake 16-mile swim to help military families enjoy Camp Sunshine

Mike Wisecup, Matt Shipman, Lew Emery and
Chad Kalocinski after the first fundraiser in
August 2014 which was a 13 mile swim
By Elizabeth Richards

In 2014, four active duty Navy SEALs participated in the inaugural SEALs for Sunshine event, a 13-mile swim across Sebago Lake. On July 25th, 2019, SEALs for Sunshine will hold their sixth annual event with the longest swim event to date.

Swimmers, including SEALs for Sunshine founder, retired Navy SEAL Commander Michael Wisecup, will navigate from Long Lake in Bridgton, through Naples into Brandy Pond, down the Songo River and across the northern part of Sebago Lake, where they’ll end their journey at Point Sebago, next door to Camp Sunshine.

Wisecup started SEALs for Sunshine to raise awareness of what the camp could offer to military families with children facing life threatening diseases. The first event in 2014 coincided with Camp Sunshine’s 30-year anniversary campaign, “Going the Distance.  “Going the Distance seemed to fit with a 13-mile half marathon swim across Sebago Lake,” Wisecup said. year since then, SEALs for Sunshine has held at least one intense physical challenge to support the goal of raising money for military families to attend Camp Sunshine. Just over $500,000 has been raised through these events, prompting a significant increase in military families – both active duty and veterans – attending camp.  Many of these families would not have known about Camp Sunshine without the publicity surrounding these events, Wisecup said.

The funds raised through SEALs for Sunshine events directly supports both attendance at the camp and travel costs to alleviate the financial burden of getting to and from camp, Wisecup said. 

The goal the first year was for each of the four swimmers to raise $2500, the approximate cost of getting one family to camp. They ended up raising just over $250,000.  “We were blown away.  There was so much support for it, support for the camp, support for the military. It was really nice,” Wisecup said.

Since that first event, SEALs for Sunshine participants collectively have swum 391 miles, biked 770 miles, run 116 miles, and put in 780 miles worth of stand-up paddle boarding.
“We try to do something different every year,” Wisecup said.  “This year, we’re coming back into the water.” 

The events are deliberately extremely physical challenges, Wisecup said, to bring some awareness to the difficulty a family faces when their child receives a life altering diagnosis.  “At that moment, that family has to fight for everything. They can’t quit. That’s a cornerstone of the SEAL ethos - never quit,” Wisecup said. 

While participants have the benefit of preparation and training, families don’t have that luxury, Wisecup said. “They don’t get to prepare their finances, their life, and put everything in order,” he said. “We’re lucky to be able to prepare, but we need to make it hard so that it connects, and it’s something we can have in common with those families as well.” year, according to a fundraising letter sent by Camp Sunshine Development Director Michael Smith, there is a matching challenge from Ralph and Suzanne Heckert and the Capital Group, so each donation made will be doubled.

SEALs for Sunshine events have enabled more than 200 military families from across the country to travel to Camp Sunshine, Smith said in the letter, but there are many more who still need help. 
To support the July 25th Swim for Sunshine, visit or

Editor’s note: Michael Wisecup, has been named vice president for strategic initiatives at Colby College. His responsibilities include operationalizing and managing key strategic initiatives, developing strategies and processes to assess and improve the quality and effectiveness across all areas of the College, coordinating special projects to ensure strategic alignment, increasing organizational focus, and facilitating collaboration regarding strategic planning, execution, and crisis management. 

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