Hudson man swims lake to raise money for cancer research

For many, a dip in a lake sounds like a great way to spend a bright late-summer day, and that’s exactly what Pat McDermot decided to do Monday.

But the full-time restaurant owner and part-time fundraiser decided to turn his swim up a notch: to spend a day off swimming a stretch of New Hampshire’s largest body of water, all in the name of cancer research.

The 51-year-old Salem long-distance swimmer, who runs Kendall Pond Pizza restaurants in Hudson, Windham and Dover, set out to swim from Center Harbor to Alton Bay on Monday to raise money for the McKenzie Lowe Foundation, and did just that, covering 22 miles in 13 hours, 30 minutes. The marathon swim event was meant to raise money for research for DIPG, which Lowe battled for close to two years.

Lowe, formerly of Hudson, succumbed in 2014 at age 13 to a type of brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma. McDermot became attached to local grass-roots fundraising efforts after the girl’s death.

Though he didn’t know the family personally, “It was one of those things that kind of hit home,” McDermot said.

McKenzie’s grandfather Frank LaFontain said Monday, “He was supplying us with pizza for some of our events. He had gotten into open-water racing. He said he’d like to raise money through doing that.”

“It tugged at your heartstrings,” McDermot said.

As time went on, he decided to try to do more than provide pizzas.

LaFountain, who lives in Florida, said there has been an ongoing fundraising effort since his granddaughter’s death to help raise funds for research and a cure.

He said after her death, family and friends started the McKenzie Lowe Foundation. Some of the money raised goes local community causes and some to national research efforts.

LaFountain said the work is “definitively getting more and more involved, and events are getting more sophisticated as we do them.”

He estimated that by the end of the year, fundraising in McKenzie’s name will reach about $25,000.

“Every little bit helps,” he said.

Before heading out, McDermot thought to himself, “If I raise 500 bucks, I raise 500 bucks. At least a few more people will know. It’s publicity. It’s better than nothing.”

Since finishing Monday evening, he has raised $3,000. He’ll keep collecting money until the end of September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

“I didn’t know if anybody believed me until we started doing it,” McDermot said. “I was trying to achieve a goal, and it helps to be driven by something … a great cause like the foundation.”

Recalling the long open-water swim, McDermot said, “There were 8 miles or so of good chop,” He said after about 9 miles, the soreness set in on his shoulders.

“Then it was a real mental game,” he said.

McDermot credits his wife, Linda, who paddled alongside in a kayak to hand over food and water, and his brother Jay and friend Karen Cole, who were nearby in a motorized boat.

“It helps to think about kids like McKenzie when you get tired,” McDermot said. “The kids never got the chances we got. I never felt sorry for myself. I just kept going.”

Don Himsel can be reached at 594-6590, or @Telegraph_DonH.