Big Bend 50

Three years ago, I committed to swimming the English Channel in support of young adult cancer patients and survivors and in memory of my beloved NYU swim coach, Lauren Beam: a friend, a sister, a wife, and a mentor. Upon reaching the shores of France last summer, I knew that moment was the culmination of my battle with cancer and simultaneously the start of something incredible. I just did not know what exactly that “something” was.

In leaving the west coast for landlocked west Texas to fulfill an exciting work opportunity, it was not something that I thought would follow me here. This summer, however, cancer again struck a chord close to my heart. Caitlin Murray, one of the most admired and adored young people in Marfa, and whom I have the pleasure of working beside at the Judd Foundation, has been diagnosed with colon cancer at age 29.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to react to the news and let my emotions take over. There is no water in west Texas, true. But with land as wild and free as the Pacific, what do you do?


A 50-mile ultra-marathon through Big Bend Ranch State Park taking place on January 18th as part of the 2015 Big Bend 50 Event ( Geographically remote with over 2,000 feet of rugged elevation gain, unpredictable weather patterns, and a wide variety of wildlife, it will undoubtedly be a challenge. But as I’ve said before, nothing equates to a battle with cancer.

I’ll be running for Caitlin and the rest of my peers who are presently battling for their lives against cancer – a place I know all too well. All funds raised through this journey will once again benefit First Descents (

One of my favorite things about being in west Texas is the culture’s natural inclination towards community in the fullest sense of the word. Whether it’s a 6-man football game at the local high school or a blessing of pets by the town’s pastor, everyone shows up.

That said, I’m also thrilled to announce:

  • Two friends have already committed to run the event’s no-less-daunting 30k, also for Caitlin and First Descents.
  • Working together with the race director and local high school coaches, the Big Bend 50 Event will soon include a relay category (5 x 10k). This way, it will allow for more people to be physically involved and in turn, garner more support for the cause.
  • Depending on the timeline of Caitlin’s treatment, we will be hosting a “Welcome Home” celebration in Marfa together with live music, great BBQ, and an auction to include local crafts and everything else the area is known for.

Over the course of the next few months, I’ll be posting updates here and to my other social media accounts. If you’re interested in how you can help, maybe even participating in the Big Bend 50 event, please contact me at allidefran at

Thank you!

Featured alumnus in NYU Magazine

NYU mag (low res).jpgWhen you go to a school with more than 40,000 students operating in the center of the Universe, such an opportunity is beyond one’s wildest dreams. It goes without saying how tremendously flattered and appreciative I am.

For the full story:

Long overdue thank you

Over the course of 10 short weeks, through a combination of personal “ask” letters, generously donated auction items, Rotary, DAR and BGC presentations, a Taco Tuesday event on the slopes in Colorado, and endless support from friends and family, I raised an astounding $27,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as part of their Man & Woman of the Year campaign. On May 17th, in a formal “Great Gatsby” themed affair, the winners for the San Diego/Hawaii Chapter were announced. While not one of them, I couldn’t be more thankful and proud.

As we all know and heard there that night, cancer affects everyone, either directly or indirectly. It’s nothing anyone deserves, but changes the lives of those diagnosed and the people around them forever.

What the group of individuals campaigning for MWOY did over the course of 10 weeks is incredible, but what I want everyone to remember is that it didn’t end with the Grand Finale Gala.

Since finishing treatment 4 years ago I have learned that there’s something special about waking up and doing what you can, while you can.

My English Channel swim may be done, and the LLS campaign may be over, but I’m not done fighting.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart for coming together to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in the fight against blood cancer.

Surrounded by dear friends: Clay, Juliana and Sue.

Surrounded by dear friends: Clay, Juliana and Sue.

Vote for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Woman of the Year

PrintBeginning on March 4th, nominated candidates have 10 weeks to raise as much money as possible to promote research, find cures, and give support to patients with blood cancer. The candidate who raises the most money “wins.” The competition then ends on May 17th with a Grand Finale Gala at the Hilton Torrey Pines.

Donations are accepted online at  or with a check made payable to LLS.

Today there are more than a million people living with or in remission from leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma. In spite of some improvements in treatment – due largely in part to the $875 million LLS has granted to researchers over the past 60+ years – someone in the U.S. dies from a blood cancer nearly every 10 minutes. In fact, leukemia is still the leading disease for childhood deaths and lymphoma is the leading fatal cancer of men under age 35.

While I would not be where I am today without your support of my English Channel swim, it’s really going to take the global community to cure blood cancer. I think we can.

Let’s make someday, today.

Interview on the Zephyr Radio

Last week, during my trip to Vail, Colorado, I had the pleasure of sitting down with the Weez on KZYR the Zephyr and chatting about my swim across the English Channel for First Descents.  Take a listen!

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Woman of the Year Nominee

I’m incredibly excited to announce that I have recently been nominated Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Woman of the Year.  Essentially, this means that I will be launching a fundraising campaign to support their research and programming. More details coming soon.  Email me at if you would like to help. The winner will be announced at a gala in May.

English Channel – Recap.


11hrs 14 min, 28 August 2013. 1st Italian lady to swim the English Channel.

Brief Timeline:
2am: depart Folkestone Harbor on the Masterpiece
with Fred Mardle and crew
3am: start at Samphire Hoe, UK
2pm: land at Cap-Gris-Nez, France

Brian Finn, ATC (New Jersey)
Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey)
Alice Harvey (Jersey)
Simon “Sumo” Jacob (England)

Estimated total distance: 28 miles
with jellyfish, tankers, pirate ships;
10-14 mph winds, 18 mph gusts;
& 1-3 meter seas.

English Channel – Success.

Today, I became a CHANNEL SWIMMER. Touching down at Cap-Gris-Nez in 11 hours 14 minutes, I also became the FIRST ITALIAN WOMAN to achieve this goal.

And I could not say this without thanking you, my friends and family, for the all of your support, prayers and kind words over the past few days.

Your messages were passed onto me via whiteboard amidst active shipping lanes, 12-18 mile an hour gusts, 1-2 meter swells, jellyfish, and a large opposing tidal current just outside the shores of France.

Tremendous thanks also goes out to Brian, my support crew – Sally, Simon, and Alice – and that of the Masterpiece, each an expert at your role, making such a feat possible and all the more enjoyable.

Now, for some rest. I will get back to everyone personally over the next few days, along with posting photo and video documentation of the adventure to my site. And please know, if you haven’t yet, it’s never too late to donate to First Descents: