As Jake Dolce approached the southern tip of Manhattan, he glimpsed the Freedom Tower and said a prayer. He prayed for friends and family, for the Bronx men, women, and children of POTS, and he prayed for the strength to keep going.
Though he had meticulously prepared and trained for this day, it was not going as expected. A steady rain fell across the Hudson River, his legs cramped, and his “feed” plan had backfired. As his support crew implemented nutrition Plan C in the form of a Coke, he heard his guide Eri Utsunomiya call from her kayak: “Keep going! The current will be with us soon.”
On Saturday, October 14, Dolce, 50, completed the “Twenty Bridges,” a 28.5- mile swim around Manhattan Island, in seven hours and 54 minutes. The event is part of the famed Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, together with the English Channel and Catalina Channel (in California). Dolce started and finished the swim at Mill Rock in The Harlem River just off 96th Street.
This herculean effort raised more than $25,000 for POTS (Part of the Solution), a Bronx nonprofit that provides meals and comprehensive support services to those in need.
Dolce credits his passion for swimming and helping others to his parents, Beth and Jed. “Two of the greatest lessons my parents taught me were to respect and care for those in need and to feel confident and safe in the water,” he said.
Dolce, who lives in Rye Brook with his wife Siobhan and their four children, is an active member of Resurrection Parish, as well as the community of open water swimmers in Rye and Mamaroneck. Every year he participates in Swim Across America to raise funds for cancer research in honor of his dad, who died from brain cancer at age 52.
The first time Dolce visited POTS with his parents he was 12. “Back then it was literally a store front,” he recalled. “There was just a small crew of volunteers handing out meals, doling out soup to anyone in need.”
What he saw made a lasting impression, and in the years since, Dolce’s efforts to support POTS have grown exponentially, along with the program itself. Last year POTS served more than 37,000 people, providing 3,203,000 meals while offering a mosaic of holistic and essential services.
Twenty Bridges has given Dolce a new appreciation for his friends and family, as well as those at POTS, “who swim against the current every day.” He recognizes his swim would not have been possible without a support crew led by his twin brother, Luke, close friend Mike Wilmot, Ed Reilly, and coach Dave Samuelson from Westchester Masters Swimming.
While describing the challenges he faced in the water, Dolce is quick to point out that at the course’s end he was able “to get out of the water, into a boat, and enjoy the comforts, and warmth, of a home. So many don’t. They struggle 365 days a year and were it not for a support crew like POTS offering guidance, nutrition, and sustenance, many would not survive.”
While many might be ready to shelve their goggles and hang up their swim trunks, Dolce remains committed to carrying on his parent’s lessons and channel his gifts for good. On November 5 in the waters off Manursing Island he passed the swim test for the English Channel Swim, a notoriously chilly and choppy challenge. Undeterred, Dolce is ready to dive back in.