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Kids plan laps for ill swimmer

They have helped organize a swim-a-thon to raise funds to help the family of a friend with a form of bone cancer.

Published June 24, 2003

EAST LAKE - Thirteen-year-old Samantha Behncke and her 10-year-old sister Layne plan to swim 350 laps at the YMCA of North Pinellas today.

Their goal has more to do with friendship than fitness. Samantha hopes her butterfly stroke helps one of her swim buddies: Olivia Ceraolo, 14, who has been at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg since early May being treated for a rare bone cancer.

"I'm excited that I get to help someone in need," said Samantha, who is going into the eighth grade at Tarpon Springs Middle School. "It's not every day you come across someone you can really help."

The Lansbrook Aquatic Club is hosting the swim-a-thon to help raise funds for Olivia and her family. The club includes more than 170 swimmers ages 5 to 18.

Swimmers solicited donations from sponsors who pledged a certain amount for each lap swum during the club's regularly scheduled practices. Samantha said most of her neighbors made a flat donation. She will be swimming from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Olivia was diagnosed with osteosarcoma on May 8. Osteosarcoma is a cancerous bone tumor that occurs predominantly in adolescents and young adults. It accounts for approximately 5 percent of the tumors in childhood.

Before her diagnosis, Olivia's parents, Carla and Paul Ceraolo, had taken her to several doctors who thought she had just pulled a muscle. An MRI later showed Olivia had cancer in her hip. She has had two rounds of chemotherapy and will undergo a third starting Monday.

Olivia is an avid sailor who placed second last year at a regatta in Panama City. She also has her own laser sailboat. She is a writer and a violinist. She will enter the ninth grade at East Lake High School in August.

"They all came up with this idea," said Paul Ceraolo, referring to the swim-a-thon. "They were like, "Is this okay?' We were like, "Yeah that's great.' It's really nice that they want to do that for her, for us."

Corky Behncke, Samantha and Layne's mom, organized the swim-a-thon because she wanted to do something to help. Olivia has been a member of the Lansbrook Aquatic Club for the past five years.

"It's one of those things where you say what can you do to help," said Corky Behncke, who is also a registrar for the Lansbrook Aquatic Club. "They could use financial help at a time like this. I'm really pleased that the swim team is doing this for them."

Corky Behncke posted fliers in several area businesses last week advertising the event. But she said she hasn't gotten many calls. She said the heavy rains hindered some of the kids from going around the neighborhood to collect donations.

She isn't sure how many of the kids solicited pledges or how much the club could raise today. Morning practices run from 6:45 a.m. until 10 a.m. The afternoon practices begin at 3:45 p.m. and end at 6:30 p.m. Corky Behncke said there will be a table at the YMCA during the practices if people want to stop by and make donations.

As long as there's no thunder, the kids will be swimming, she said.

"I have never done anything like this before," she said. "I know the family will greatly appreciate it, and I know they can use it."

- Megan Scott can be reached at 727 445-4183 or

To help

The Lansbrook Aquatic Club is hosting a swim-a-thon today to benefit East Lake resident Olivia Ceraolo, who was recently diagnosed with a rare bone cancer. Checks can be made payable to the Lansbrook Aquatic Club and sent to the Lansbrook Aquatic Club, c/o YMCA of North Pinellas, 4550 Village Center Drive, Palm Harbor, FL 34685. For more information, call Corky Behncke at (727) 942-1596.

[Last modified June 24, 2003, 01:47:56]

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