GAINESVILLE, Ga. — A metro Atlanta mom will be joining other swimmers this morning at Lake Lanier to conclude a five-month, 14-stop tour honoring her teen daughter who died of cancer in 2018.
The "Amazing Grace" 2021 Tour had raised money throughout the year for the Swim Across America nonprofit, which is dedicated to funding cancer research and treatment programs.
The Atlanta swim itself is responsible for nearly $400,000, more than $80,000 coming from "Team Amazing Grace."
11Alive Anchor Cheryl Preheim has followed the Bunke family's story for years, and spoke with Vicki Bunke ahead of Saturday's open-water swim at Lake Lanier.
"There's a healing quality you get when you're in the water," Vicki said this week.
Bunke's 14-year-old daughter Grace found joy in swimming when cancer took away her first passion, running. When Grace eventually chose to stop chemotherapy, it was so she would have the strength to swim to raise money to help find a cure.
Grace completed an open-water swim at Lake Lanier, and inspired hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations - as well as her mother's quest to keep the effort going.
Vicki had never been a swimmer, but learned after Grace passed, and the charitable effort through Swim Across America continues today.
This year the mom undertook 14 open-water events as part of the "Amazing Grace" tour, starting out back on Mother's Day.
She said its purpose was to embrace living and help save lives.
"I've learned a lot from Grace's approach to life, and also her approach to death, with the idea that 'hope has no finish line' - I think is something we can all relate to," Vicki told Cheryl.
Hope, for Vicki, is like water - it welcomes all, it endures storms, it's endless.
"Although I always feel connected to Grace, I probably never feel more connected to Grace than when I'm in the water," she said. "I feel kind of that joy coming out of the water, because I know that heaven is cheering me on."
The 2021 tour will end in the same waters where Grace once completed her swim - Lake Lanier.
"I will never forget watching Grace come out of the water that day," Vicki said.
Grace demonstrated what it looks like to live whole-heartedly and be stubborn on hope - a legacy her mom and many others carry on.
"This tour will have a finish line, you know, but hope does not," Vicki said.
The event begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, with 1-mile, half-mile and 5k swims going on.