WILMINGTON, North Carolina The UNCW swim teams dove into the rolling waters of Wrightsville Beach early Saturday, cruising through the open ocean to raise money for a young swimmer fighting the tides of cancer.

One day after competing in a season-opening dual meet, the Seahawks partnered with visiting Tennessee to cover 400,000 meters to raise money and awareness for six-year-old New Hampshire swimmer Soren Cooper, who was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, to raise money for his treatment.

“We really wanted to do this to show the community that we care and want to make a difference,” said Tiffany Clay, assistant coach with the Seahawks. “The swim community has always showed strong support for us, and we took this opportunity to repay them and show that the whole swimming community is in this together.”

The event was part of the “One Million Meters For Soren” campaign. Soren’s family is rallying swimmers across the nation to take a picture of themselves holding a sign that shows how many meters they swam, along with words of encouragement for the struggling child. Soren loves the water, but has been unable to enjoy it since his diagnosis. The Dover, N.H., family has been counting on the generosity of the national swim community to help defray costs of the young boy’s treatment and get him back to swimming.

“As soon as one of our captains found out about this, we shared it with the teams and they were thrilled to be a part of it,” Clay added.  “We all just wanted to help a little boy have the same opportunities as a swimmer that we have had.”

UNCW and Tennessee answered the call to raise the total meter count to nearly 1.5 million, almost half a million meters above the family’s original goal. In Saturday’s swim, the teams dashed into the surf at Shell Island and finished at Johnny Mercer’s pier. About 60 swimmers from each team participated in the early-morning swim, united by the common goal of helping a fellow swimmer.

“Most of us didn’t know why we were swimming two miles on Saturday morning until we showed up,” said Michael Baric, a senior from Haw River,, N.C. “Once our coaches told us about Soren’s struggle, we were then pumped and motivated to jump in the water to help Soren.”

Those interested in swimming for Soren are encouraged to find a pool, pond, or any body of water, and take a picture of themselves holding a sign that says their name, the distance they swam in meters, and encouraging words for the young swimmer. Photographs may be sent to OneMillionMetersForSoren@hotmail.com. Other ways to support Soren and learn about his progress can be found at OneMillionMetersForSoren.Blogspot.com.