Reach the Beach - Chicago

Veteran's Joint Swim Mission with The Shark & Retreat

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Four Chicago-area disabled combat Veterans will participate in Reach the Beach - Chicago as the climactic therapeutic experience of the Swim Mission 22 Veterans Program.  (What is the significance of the number 22?  Please see Mission to Make “22” Irrelevant).  


The Veterans, as the Veteran Swim Team, will engage in their own unique version of the swim in a joint mission with the event organizer and renowned open water swimmer Jim “The Shark” Dreyer.  The Veterans, while attending a retreat, will also be part of the public swim by interacting on the course with the fundraising swimmers who made their *FREE participation possible.     

Casting Out Burden Veterans Retreat

July 9, 2022



On Saturday, the day of the Reach the Beach – Chicago public swim, the Veterans will enjoy a relaxing morning of charter fishing offshore near the 11-mile turnaround point on the swim course.  The Casting Out Burden Veterans Retreat will encourage a therapeutic open exchange among the combat Veterans and with a trained counselor while lines are in the water, discussing life challenges and progress made while working toward their Swim Mission 22 goal.  This pre-swim retreat, held in a Veteran-favored environment, is designed to ease burdens and accentuate a positive mindset before taking to the water the next day. 


As the swimmers are approaching mid-course, lines are reeled in (don’t want to snag a swimmer) and the charter boat will take its’ position to mark the 11-mile turnaround waypoint.  As the swimmers round the boat to swim back to shore, the Veterans will cheer them on while many of the swimmers are sure to thank them for their service.  Seeing the swimmers in action and the spirited interaction will spur the Veteran’s excitement for when they start their swim from this same point on Tuesday!

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Dusk 'til Dawn Cannonball Swim - July 11, 2022

Sink or Swim (S.O.S.) for Veterans

Jim “The Shark” Dreyer, who coined the term “strength swimming” as a recognized Stan Lee Superhuman on the History Channel, adds an unusual twist to Reach the Beach - Chicago, as only he can.


At dusk (20:30 CDT) on Monday, The Shark will embark on his mission from the beach and swim straight out to sea for 9 hours overnight while bearing 22 pounds of deadweight (negative buoyancy) strapped to his body, including a cannonball. 


Like an airplane needs thrust and lift to defy gravity and stay in the air, The Shark must provide enough constant forward propulsion to overcome the accelerated rate of his sinking body and keep his head above water.  Wearing paddles and fins to accomplish this, he must supply enough sustained power to move an exponentially greater water mass against the increased surface of his hands, feet, and against the drag of his weighted body.


The Shark's goal is to swim at least 11 miles to the turnaround point on the swim course and then continue on to see how far he can get from shore before dawn.


The cannonball symbolizes the burden carried by the heroic men and women of our armed forces.  The Shark’s swim speaks to the struggles faced by many Veterans, who are figuratively swimming further from the safety of shore in darkness, feeling alone with their burdens and trying not to sink from the weight of them.  Like swimming with a cannonball, the Veterans often carry their “ball of burden” beneath the surface, unseen by others. 


While the Shark may make news for the physical weight he is literally carrying, he knows it pales in comparison to the true weight of the Veteran’s burden they carry from their service to us.  The disabled Veteran swimmers are the main feature of this news story.  


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Reach the Beach - Chicago Veteran Swim

July 12, 2022


The members of the Veteran Swim Team are on a mission.  Operation Reach the Beach – Chicago sets the stage for the disabled combat Veterans, who sacrificed with valor for our freedom, to demonstrate their courage, commitment, and character once again.


Before daybreak on Tuesday morning, representing the true American heroes they are, the Veterans will perform a symbolic search and rescue of Jim “The Shark” Dreyer.  After finding him somewhere beyond the horizon at dawn (05:30 CDT), they will secure the swimmer and his classified cargo on the vessel.


Now the Veteran Swim Team will complete the mission by swimming to shore from the 11-mile mark beyond the Lake Michigan horizon, in a self-affirming and truly inspiring adventure of their own.  The team will cover the distance to REACH THE BEACH with at least one team member in the water at all times.  (Veterans - Please see Swim Procedures - Rules - Strategy).


The Veteran’s swim will be the culmination of months of training with a **volunteer swim coach in cooperation with a sponsoring health club.  The coach, who has been a part of the Veteran’s personal Swim Mission 22 journey from the beginning, is invited to swim with the team and share in their triumph.


As they follow the sun across the sky, the distant Chicago skyline begins to loom closer and summons them to execute their beach landing to an appreciative gathering.


When their mission is accomplished, the Veterans will be presented cannonballs of their own as commendations to honor their service and commemorate an inspiring journey.  The cannonball, once a symbol of their burden, now represents empowerment to overcome challenges and a new beginning.  


Unlike the symbolism of The Shark’s outbound swim, the Veterans’ return swim and overall personal journey through the program represents hope, demonstrated by sharing and easing burdens through the strength of a support team.  This allows the afflicted to figuratively not only stay afloat, but to excel and reach the safely of shore. 


Please see Swim Mission 22 Veterans Program Outcomes.

Veterans:  To learn about the teams supporting you on and off the water, please see Your Support Team.



Fundraising by swimmers in the Reach the Beach – Chicago public event will allow free participation for Veterans.  Participating Veterans will be asked to fundraise, but there will be no minimum fundraising requirement. 

**  Swim Mission 22 will make every attempt to choose and match Veterans with a common volunteer swim coach and sponsoring health club (with pool) all from within the same general geographic area; but these matches cannot be guaranteed.  Geographic considerations may weigh into determining which Veterans are accepted for participation.