Trent TherouxOn August 11, triathlete and open-water swimmer Trent Theroux attempted to swim the 21-mile span of the English Channel as a fundraiser to benefit Rise Above Paralysis, the Greater Boston Chapter of United Spinal Association. The swim titled Back to Britain was his third fundraiser, following Back to Block and Back to Newport.

Unfortunately, high waves and choppy conditions forced Theroux to abandon his effort after completing 11 miles in just over three hours, but he had already raised tens of thousands of dollars for the organization.

The channel swim is considered one of the hardest endurance tests in the world. “It’s quite the endeavor,” says Doug Frey, the president of the board for the Greater Boston Chapter. “Ten times as many people have climbed Mount Everest as have swum the English Channel.”

Theroux came to endurance swimming after sustaining a spinal cord injury when he was hit by a boat while out kayaking near his Rhode Island home in 2002. His injury was incomplete, and following a lengthy recovery, Theroux regained most of his pre-accident function.  During his rehabilitation, he made a list of physical goals, from lifting his children to competing in an Ironman to completing an unprecedented ocean swim.

Theroux’s accident opened his eyes to both the debilitating cost of medical equipment necessary after a spinal cord injury, as well as the important work being done by Rise Above Paralysis. He chose to use a pair of open water swims — one using only the backstroke — as fundraisers to benefit the spinal cord injury community.

Frey estimates that Theroux has raised more than $100,000 for the organization. Proceeds for two swims were earmarked for durable medical equipment and the third for vehicle modifications. The funds have allowed the chapter to give grants of up to $2,500 to help individuals with qualifying needs.

“Trent initiated this campaign and he has done virtually all of the fundraising himself,” says Frey. “He is a world class athlete and a caring, giving person. It is phenomenal for him to offer to do this for us! We, as a chapter, cannot thank Trent enough for his generosity and commitment to the SCI community.”