Jeff Lever, a math teacher at Nathan Hale Middle School in Norwalk, participated in the Swim Across the Sound marathon last year for the first time – and it won’t be the last.

Jeff’s sister, Beth Hare, lost her battle with cancer in summer 2019. Beth was from a large family, six children in all, but her extended family is vast. It includes countless colleagues and patients at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport who Beth worked with and cared for. After graduating from St. Vincent’s College, Beth worked as a nurse at St. Vincent’s for more than 30 years.

“She considered St. Vincent’s her second home,” said Jeff. “She loved going to work and loved her job as a nurse. When she became too ill to work at the hospital, she continued working from home, helping patients, as long as she possibly could.”

The Swim Across the Sound marathon, scheduled this year for Aug. 6, is an iconic annual event to just about everyone growing up in Fairfield County – and Jeff was no exception.

“In the back of my mind, I had always wanted to do the swim — it was a bucket-list thing,” Jeff said. “With the passing of my sister, it became all too real — and I took that as a sign.”

Jeff was ready to go all-in. He recruited four more for the five-man Boo’s Crew swim team. Boo was Beth’s nickname. These guys were no strangers to challenge — as they have all participated in the Iron Man (swim, bike, ride) Triathlon, and three of the five had participated in previous Swim Across the Sound marathons.

“When we get in on something together, we tend to go over the top,” Jeff said.

They trained hard, taking to the frigid, early morning water at Fairfield Beach for training twice a week leading up to the race.

Another important aspect of the marathon is raising funds for Swim Across the Sound. Each solo swimmer or team has a dedicated fundraising page and Boo’s Crew hit this one out of the park! Jeff and his team raised a whopping $45,000 and were the recipients of the inaugural 2021 Ron Bianchi Fundraiser Award for the highest funds raised.

They launched the fundraiser on Beth’s birthday, in March of 2021, by posting a video about Beth and their upcoming challenge with a link for those who might want to sponsor Boo’s Crew. This is just one more way a big family comes in handy. Siblings, nephews, nieces, along with many former colleagues and friends re-posted the video.

“I watched the scrolling donations coming in, from people I knew, and from many I didn’t know,” Jeff recalls. “I sent an email out and within an hour we had more than $2,000. I was in awe of the love and support. And I’m a competitive guy – so this year I want to raise $100,000!”

A few more of Beth’s siblings got in on the swim. Her brother, Rick Lever swam with Jeff on the Boo’s Crew team, while their sister Patty was aboard the Boo’s Crew escort boat, timing the swim and cheering her brothers on. Beth’s parents were also able to attend, watching their children crossing the sound in honor of Beth.

Jeff already has big plans for Boo’s Crew and 2022 Swim Across the Sound Marathon. Beyond the personal challenge, it’s a challenge to continue his sister’s legacy.

“Beth spent her entire life helping people,” said Jeff. “This is a way I can help her to continue doing that by raising funds for cancer patients and their families. It’s profound. Beth is going to keep helping people for as long as I can do this.”

The 35th annual Swim Across the Sound Marathon is Aug. 6. Registration is now open for swimmers, boaters and volunteers. Click here.