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Maggie Steffens greets some friends from the Danville community at Striive Training Studio in Danville, Calif. on Friday, Aug. 19, 2012. The water polo gold medalist met with her community, signed autographs, and answered questions about the sport and the Olympics. ((Laura A. Oda/Staff)

LIVERMORE -- It was days before Christmas 2007 when Korrine Croghan, a freshman at Granada High School, was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer that had already spread to several organs.

Ten months later, at age 14, choriocarcinoma took her life.

Korrine had been a water polo player, and her father, Matt Croghan, is a water polo coach and swimmer. The area's swimming and water polo community rallied around the family and helped coordinate the SwimStrong Swim-A-Thon to raise money to help the family.

The fund helped Korrine, Matt and Korrine's mom, Dana Croghan, get through months of treatment. Through it all, Korrine told her parents how much she wanted to help the other young cancer patients with her in the clinic.

When Korrine died, her parents and their friends honored her desire to help pediatric cancer patients and continued the swim-a-thon event to raise money for other families.

They formed Team KC, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday they will hold the fifth SwimStrong event at the Robert Livermore Community Center pool. Participants collect pledges and try to swim as many laps as possible in 30 minutes. Last year, they raised $37,000 for patients and families at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland.

"This event means a lot to me because it helped us to carry on our daughter's dream of helping pediatric cancer patients and their families," said Dana Croghan.

Working with Kaiser staff, they visit patients to find out what might help relieve some of the stress.

"We give the child something to make their visit a little bit better, comfort them -- stuffed animals, blankets, games. We give them things they can take to the hospital, like laptops, Nintendo DSes."

On a recent visit, a 14-year-old boy told Dana a drum set would help him get through the treatments. His drum set arrives this week.

Team KC also tries to lighten the burden on the parents and siblings while a child is in the hospital for weeks or even months.

"We're helping a family (whose) son's immune system is completely worn down, and they can't bring him home to an environment where there's mold. So we're helping to get the house fixed for them so they can bring their child home," Dana said.

Matt and Dana, working with Kaiser doctors, have plans to build a house near the hospital for families to stay while their child is in treatment. The house will be named in honor of Korrine.

Dana said the money runs out each year, and the needs remain. They hope to bring in $50,000 this year. They have a record number of swimmers signed up, 101, and they hope for more sign-ups this week.

Grant Garcia, a senior water polo player at San Ramon Valley High, said it was an easy choice to take part in his third SwimStrong event this year.

"My mother being a two-times cancer survivor and the fact that Korrine was just like me, another water polo player ... I (had) wanted to find something that I could get involved in, and this was everything I knew about: water polo, swimming and how tough a person has to be to get through cancer treatments."

Korrine's father, Matt, swims the event each year.

"It think I went 90 last time; if I can stay there that would be great," he said.

Matt Croghan, a schoolteacher, also coaches 14-and-under water polo for the Livermore Lazers.

Cindy Gary's daughter was coached by Matt, and when Korrine was sick, Cindy Gary stepped in to help with the swim-a-thon. Along with Matt, Dana and another friend, Jaclyn Rice, Gary helps coordinate the event each year.

"Korrine was a very special kid. It's a way to continue her legacy and keep her memory alive," said Gary.

There is a free barbecue for all swimmers and a raffle and an auction at the event.

Maggie Steffens, an Olympic gold medalist water polo player from San Ramon, donated some items for the auction. Andy Grant, a former NCAA All-American swimmer, will swim again this year. He and his wife, three-time gold-medalist swimmer Dana Vollmer, have donated to the auction the promise of a personally cooking dinner at someone's house.

For details, call Cindy Gary at 925-606-7767, send an email to teamkc@comcast.net or visit www.teamkcswimathon.com.

Swimstrong swim-a-thon
Who: Team KC
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Where: Robert Livermore Community Center pool, 4444 East Ave., Livermore
What: Participants collect pledges and try to swim as many laps as possible in 30 minutes. Events include a bake sale, barbecue and raffle. Funds raised are used to help pediatric cancer patients and their families at Kaiser Permanente Oakland.
Admission: Free
Details: Visit www.teamkcswimathon.com, call Cindy Gary at 925-606-7767 or send an email to teamkc@comcast.net.