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Updated May 9, 2013 - 10:23 am

Valley teen to make 2nd swim from Alcatraz Island

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- At 14, Sean Gage practices swimming six times a week at the outdoor pool at the YMCA in Goodyear.

He's been swimming since he was 5, and last year made the frigid 1 1/2-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the shore in San Francisco in just 31 minutes.

"It was quite surprising actually," Gage said. "I was only trying to finish it for the experience, and I ended up getting 31st out of 800 people, and first in my age group."

His mom, Sherry Gage, couldn't believe he actually did it.

"I couldn't put my foot into the water because it was 50 degrees," she said. "Yet I was putting my kid on to a ferry to jump five feet into the water at Alcatraz and swimming back. But I couldn't stop him either."

Gage will try the swim again May 19, but this time he'll do it to try to help kids affected by a loved one's breast cancer.

It's something that he can relate to. Sherry, the director of the Breast Health and Research Centers at John C. Lincoln Healthcare, was diagnosed with the disease seven years ago.

"I was due for a mammogram," said Sherry Gage. "The center that I worked was due for their yearly inspection. They could not find a dense-breasted woman, which I was. So I said ‘my mammogram is due, let me call for an order.' So I did. They did the mammogram, and I was making sure it was exactly what they wanted, and I found the breast cancer."

The single mother of three was shocked.

"There was a lump in my throat. I had helped probably 500 to 600 women through their breast cancer. You know that it's a possibility, but I had no risk factors at all."

Sherry Gage was 40, and firmly believes that she is a prime example that women should start getting mammograms at 40 instead of 50, as some experts contend.

Her breast cancer fight was also an ordeal for Sean.

"I was just scared. I didn't know what was happening every day. I didn't know what was happening," said Gage.

Now he wants to make sure that other kids don't feel lost. He's using this year's Alcatraz swim to raise money.

"This year I'm swimming for my mom's work. They are hosting a Coping Kids Camp for kids that their mothers have breast cancer. All of the money goes to that camp."

He's hoping to raise $10,000. At the camp, kids will get books and other materials that will help them deal with the cancer. As for Sherry Gage, she's proud of her son's accomplishments and how he's helping others.

"I think we have to go through things that we're uncomfortable with and do our very best," Sherry Gage said. "He did an amazing job, and now is helping out kids to king of overcome their fears."

"I'm very honored to have him as a son."

• People who want to help can go to John C. Lincoln Health Network

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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