Atlantan Vicki Bunke is honoring the life of her 14-year-old daughter Grace by swimming 14 open-water Swim Across America swims, the same number of swim meets Grace did before she could no longer swim. Swimming with Bunke was Grace’s oncologist Dr. Karen Wasilewski-Masker of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
During her fight with cancer, Grace learned to love swimming and excelled at it, even earning a U.S. Paralympic Team swim cap. Her last request to her mother was to continue swimming for her when she no longer could, which Vicki now does as part of a team raising funds for pediatric cancer research.
Grace died in 2018 due to osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. Her mother began swimming from Nantucket to Seattle in May, with numerous stops in between ending Oct. 2 in Atlanta.
Grace’s fight against cancer and Vicki’s swimming are featured in the first two episodes of the docu-series “WaveMakers,” which aired on the Discovery Life channel this month. Grammy award-winning Zac Brown Band-member John Driskell Hopkins, a friend of the Bunke family, wrote the theme song “I’ll Take You Home.”
Grace was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at 11, and fought for nearly four years that included a partial leg amputation and a number of lung operations.
“It’s usually parents who leave legacies for our children,” Vicki Bunke said. “Grace left a legacy for us. She was the No. 1 fundraiser for pediatric research with Swim Across America before she passed away, and if she were here today, she would be swimming to fight this awful disease for others. It’s Grace’s spirit that brings us all together for this cause.”