ALS Hawaii swim
McConnell parents

Dr. David McConnell, DVM & Bonnie McConnell

Ellen McConnell Blakeman

Ellen McConnell BlakewellEllen McConnell Blakeman, Doug McConnell’s sister, passed away on February 11, 2018, after a twelve-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

In 2006, shortly after Ellen’s father, Dr. David McConnell, DVM, passed away from ALS, she was diagnosed with the same horrific disease for which there is no cure.

In a partnership with her brother in 2011, Ellen co-founded “A Long Swim,” a nonprofit that both borrows the ALS acronym and is dedicated to raising funds for collaborative ALS research using open water and marathon-distance swimming.

Marathon Swimming for a Cause

A Long Swim designs and manages open water swimming events raising funds for ALS collaborative world class research.

Doug McConnell, with the help of his A Long Swim Team, became only the 48th person over age 50 to swim the English Channel, in 14 hours that were divided between heavy waves and pitch black darkness.

The success of the English Channel swim has inspired the A Long Swim Team to continue with marathon swims, including the 24-mile length of Tampa Bay, the 21-mile distance of  the Catalina Channel in California, and a 29-mile circumnavigation of Manhattan Island in New York City.  The swims of the English Channel, the Catalina Channel and Manhattan Island make up the “Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming,” of which Doug was the 89th person to complete, and only the 15th person to complete all over the age of 50.

A Long Swim has raised $500,000 for ALS research, dedicated to the groundbreaking and collaborative research at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, one of the top ALS research laboratories in the world. On the very day that Doug finished his English Channel crossing, Northwestern made a breakthrough announcement of the discovery of the common cause of all forms of ALS, and has accelerated its pace of discoveries since then.