This Saturday morning, Caitlin Garvey will wake up early-like most days-and prepare to go for a swim. But this won’t be just an ordinary dip in the pool nor a couple of measly laps for the former OPRF High School swimmer, soon to be a sophmore at Notre Dame.

It wasn’t long ago when Caitlin’s mom, Denise, drove her to every groggy morning practice at the high school. Four days a week Denise was there, willing and able to chauffer one of her three daughters to swim practice. Denise also never missed a meet, home or away. She’d show up with a smile, poster and a video camera, all in support of her daughter and the Huskies swim team.

“She was the type of person who was always there for everyone,” says Caitlin, 19. “She’d do anything for anyone. We were in the car every morning, and I was the sleepy one. She was always laughing and joking around with me.”

Denise passed away last month of breast cancer, a disease that began as chronic lymphocytic leukemia in 1997. She was 52 years old.

The Garveys are getting along. Caitlin says some days are better than others.

“We are fighting through it; my mom never focused much on herself, so she wouldn’t want us to be focused on her being gone,” says Caitlin. “She’d want us to focus on something else.”

On Saturday morning, Caitlin will focus on swimming 1.5 miles in Lake Michigan, all for the benefit of cancer research. The event is called Swim Across America and the money raised benefits the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center at Loyola University Hospital, where Denise was treated. This will be Caitlin’s third time participating in the event.

“In previous events she was on the beach when I was finished,” remembers Caitlin of her mother, a former lawyer who many years ago gave up the profession to raise her daughters. “So this will be emotional, but I’ve been looking forward to it. She would have wanted me participating in it again.”

Caitlin will have a strong support staff by her side. Not only will her father, Edward, and sisters Sarah, a junior at OPRF, and Meaghan, a senior at Notre Dame, be on hand, but former Huskie swimmers and friends Grace Boblick, Greg Rogalla, Alison Kutska and Katie Prendergast will participate in the event as well.

Caitlin’s goal was to raise at least $12,000 for cancer research. She’s already hit that mark and then some, currently exceeding $21,000. And there’s still time to contribute. You can go to and click on the Chicago event; then type in Caitlin’s name.

It’s for a good cause.


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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...