She participated in the 20 Bridges Swim, organized by Swim Across America, which took her under 20 bridges and three rivers.
A young teen from California completed a 28.5-mile swim around Manhattan for a great cause. Maya Merhige completed what is known as the 20 Bridges Swim as part of Swim Across America to raise money for cancer research. The high school junior traveled to the Big Apple over the weekend to participate in the swim which eight hours and 43 minutes to complete. The 20 Bridges Swim takes swimmers under 20 bridges and three rivers and for Merhige "the challenge" is enjoyable. It is one of many she has taken part in throughout the last eight years to raise over $75,000 for the non-profit organization.
"Whatever I'm doing in my swimming, or whatever pain I go through in my swims, it's really nothing compared to the struggle that cancer families go through," Merhige told WABC. "And that really pushes me to keep going forward. Knowing that the money I'm raising makes a difference really encourages me to keep going. And through my fundraising, I hope that we can kind of end cancer."
Only two other 15-year-olds have successfully completed the 20 Bridges Swim prior to Merhige's accomplishment. This is her eighth major marathon swim, per Swim Across America. She's also one of the youngest swimmers to ever swim around the island of Manhattan according to the organization. "I really like the challenge of it. I got to see all of the Manhattan skyline from the water at night, which is something I think not a lot of people can say," she told Good Morning America. "So I had a really fun time with that and it was beautiful."
Meeting Maya Merhige! As a rising sophomore at Berkeley High, Maya is the youngest woman to swim the Lake Tahoe Triple Crown! Maya, thank you for showing us what's possible when you're willing to train and work hard to accomplish your goal. You are #defylimits defined! pic.twitter.com/MHDijklswq— Reichi Lee 李瑞琪 (@ReichiLee4BUSD) August 10, 2022
The young teen spoke about how the death of a close family friend pushed her toward the cause. Speaking to Swim Across America in an online interview she shared, “I swim for each and every single person that has ever been touched by cancer. Whether it’s for a patient, a doctor, a family member, or a friend, I swim for them all. Sam Hallward, a family friend of mine, passed away from brain cancer (DIPG) in December 2022 at the age of 12," she said. "He was one of the most outgoing and adventurous kids I knew, and I just know that he would have loved to be in all of the awesome places that I get to go while swimming.”
That's not all as her own medical health scare made her realize how she was "one of the lucky ones,” the young teen explained to the organization. “The grapefruit-size tumor was benign and with the exception of a massive scar across my stomach, I will be okay. This brief, but terrifying experience, gave me and my family a small taste of what others go through when confronted with a terrifying medical situation. It gave me even greater respect for what people with cancer experience and made me even more committed to this effort."