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Brian J. Earley

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 | Lin-Mark Sports | March of Dimes

Bay Swim Founder Brian J. Earley

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Brian Earley and Michelle Matteson
(March Of Dimes Central Maryland Poster Child).

Beating Bridge Traffic
Friday, June 10, 1983

earley1.jpg (5411 bytes)Brian Earley of Winchester on the Severn has found a way to beat the weekend traffic jam ay the Bay bridge.
     Earley plans to swim across the Bay.
     Actually, he will be stroking across the bay below the bridge Sunday beginning at 1 PM for his second annual swim for the American Diabetes Association.
     Earley, whose father, Joseph, died in 1981 after suffering 22 years from diabetes, will begin the 5 mile swim from a spot along Kent Island and finish at Sandy Point State Park.
     The swim is an attempt to raise money through sponsors for research into the disease.
     Last year, Earley completed the trek in under three hours. He hopes to break that mark this year.
     Earley, a Towson State University junior, will swim alongside a boat. He is a former Junior College All American and Athlete of the Year at Anne Arundel Community College.


Bay Bridge,
Early swims set for Sunday

June 1986

     Two swimming races, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim and the Brian Early Chesapeake Bay swim benefit for the American Diabetes Association, have been combined this year and will be held Sunday beginning at 10AM. Swimmers will start at a beach next to the Bay Bridge and finish at Hemingway's Restaurant on Kent Island. The point-to-point distance is 4.35 statute miles. Swimming is done between the two Chesapeake Bay Bridges. The shipping lanes will be closed from 10AM till noon to allow swimmers to pass across. In 1982, Brian Early organized the first swim to raise money for diabetes research. The project was done as a memorial to his father, Joseph, who died in 1981 after having diabetes for 22 years. The first swim netted $800.00 for the Diabetes Association. In 1983 and 1984, Early swam solo crossings and raised $2000.00 each time for diabetes research. In 1985, several additional participants joined the swim and a total of $3000.00 was raised. This year, the diabetes swim will be combined with the bay race. Organized three years ago by Fletcher Hanks, The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim Race is a competition among athletes. Swimmers participating in the race will be encouraged to accept pledges for the Diabetes Association. All swimmers will be bussed to the starting point from the parking lot of Hemingway's Restaurant. More than 240 participants are expected and registration is closed. Those interested in next year's swim may sign up at the end of the race.


Repeat of a solo Bay swim
June 13, 1992

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One gray rainy day 10 years ago, Brian Earley set out to swim the Chesapeake Bay, as a memorial to his father who had died months before of complications from diabetes.
     It was a family affair, with his brother watching over him from a boat, his sister soliciting funds for the American Diabetes Association and his mother on the shore waiting anxiously for a sign of her son.
     This year, as the hugely popular Chesapeake Bay Swim is reorganized under a new charity, Mr. Earley plans to make one last solo for his father, Joseph Earley, for diabetes research.
     "I'm sorry he's not here to see how fortunate we are to have such incredible participation on the part of all these fine people," Mr. Earley said, his voice breaking. "My swim kind of closes out 10 years of fundraising for diabetes and hopefully opens up another 10 years of fundraising for the March of Dimes."
     Mr. Earley will take off from Sandy Point State Park early tomorrow morning, accompanied by several boats.
     The official Chesapeake Bay Swim will take place Sunday, June 28, with 600 swimmers making the 4.4-mile trek across the bay. Organized by Baltimore businessman Chuck Nabit, the swim will begin at 8:30 a.m., with all proceeds going to the March of Dimes.
     Now a resident of San Diego, Mr. Earley has come back each year for the swim, which has grown exponentially over the years until it reached a peak of almost 900 swimmers last year.
     Last year's swim, however, turned into a full-fledged rescue operation, after strong currents pulled the swimmers off-course and they had to be plucked one by one from the water.
     The Coast Guard initially denied the organizer a permit for a swim this year, but eventually granted one to Mr. Nabit, a member of the board of directors for the March of Dimes.
     Because of the uncertainty of the event, Mr. Earley had made plans several months ago to return to Annapolis for a solo swim, in order to keep the race and the memory of his father alive.
     "I don't want to take anything away from Chuck Nabit's swim," he hastens to add. "Whether it's for the March of Dimes, diabetes or multiple sclerosis, as long as it's a viable charity, people should be open to it. I just think if we're healthy enough to exercise, we might as well spend a little bit of time helping those who can't."
     This 10th anniversary swim will be much like the first, with his brother in a boat, watching out for passing boaters, his sister raising funds and his mother on the shore, waiting and worrying.
     He's looking forward to the event, a challenge even in the best of conditions.
     "It's quite a battle out there, very similar to the battle anyone with a disease has," he said.
     And he's hoping that with the emphasis back on the fund-raising aspect of the swim, that some good will come of it.
     "We had lost some of the aspect of fund-raising. I was kind of saddened by that," he said. "Sometimes in life you don't know what matters but then you find something that does. For some reason, this swim does."


Swimmimg alum Brian Earley praises Towson as he braves stormy Chesapeake
     Every year, Brian Earley makes his pilgrimage to Annapolis to swim in the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, a race he started in 1982 as a young varsity swimmer at Towson State. Crossing the watery path the British followed in their attempt to take over Fort McHenry, Earley faces volatile tides, rapid currents and freezing temperatures to swim the course that weaves between the twin Bay Bridge spans connecting Annapolis with Kent Island. He began this race as a tribute to his father.
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"When I was a junior at Towson State, my dad died of complications from a 26-year struggle with diabetes. Suddenly, he was gone, and I wanted to show my appreciation by using the only real power I had: my physical and mental power," explains Earley. He arrived at the idea for the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, a race he believed would attract attention, raise awareness and help raise precious dollars for diabetes research. So, he called the local newspaper, the Coast Guard and the American Diabetes Association and convinced them to let him try it. The first year, he swam alone.
     In later years, the race expanded to include 10 swimmers and in 1985, marathon organizer Charles Nabit took over, opening the race to anyone who wanted to take on the Chesapeake, subject to physical qualifications. This year, Earley was joined by 600 men and women aged 16 - 70 from 22 states who braved the Bay in June. The group raised over $28,000. Over half a million dollars have been raised for the American Diabetes Association and the March of Dimes since 1982.
     "This is no walkathon," admits Earley, but he adds, "The whole concept is a struggle for a couple of hours that mirrors the struggle of someone with a disability." The race is never rescheduled. Swimmers take what the Bay gives them on that day. Rita Sellers, a volunteer who assists Charles Nabit, points out the importance of technology in planning. "Without the help of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Coast Guard, there would be no swim," she says. NOAA, along with the National Weather Service, predicts slack tides when it is safest to cross, and the Coast Guard is on hand to rescue swimmers who become exhausted or hypothermic. Kayakers skim the water, shouting encouragement to the athletes and a team of volunteers waits on the shore with refreshments. Sellers recalls with a chuckle, "When swimmers first get out of the water, I know it's hard to believe, but they often want a glass of water...without the salt!" All in all, about 1000 volunteers pitch in to sponsor the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim each year.
     Earley asserts that his swimming training at Towson was an integral part of his successes. "The reason I could take on five miles of choppy, stormy water was the swimming program at Towson. The Bay is about 8,000 to 9,000 yards wide, which was the typical length of a swim team practice," he explains.
     He describes Coach Ray Riordan as someone to trust and one who instilled the values of discipline and hard work. During a successful swimming career at TSU in 1982, Earley set school records in the 100 and 200 butterfly, 400 yard medley relay and 400 yard freestyle relay. The 400 yard medley relay record represents one of the top three finishes ever for the university; the 400 yard freestyle relay, a record set at the Eastern Seaboard Championships in West Point with fellow athletes John Reister, Glynn McKenzie and Jorge Ferrer, remains unbroken.
     The qualities of discipline and teamwork learned on the swim team help him daily in his position as a senior membership representative at the Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Earley retains strong ties with the university, having returned for the 30th swimming alumni reunion celebration this fall. He also represented Towson University at the inauguration of San Diego State University's new president. "I am very proud of Brian," asserts Riordan. "He is a tenacious swimmer and tenacious in life."

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