Ann Catherine swims one last time for her sister during ‘Swim for Melissa’ fundraiser

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Swimmers swam in Hampton Cove to benefit the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund.

Amy and Chris George started the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund, in honor of their daughter who died just hours after she was born. For the past 14 years, they have continued to raise money to buy life-saving equipment for critically ill children and newborns.

Saturday was their annual Swim for Melissa event.  The fundraiser holds a special place in our hearts because Amy George, Melissa's mother was a WHNT News 19 anchor for several years. This year was extra special because it was Ann Catherine, Melissa's twins last year to swim.

"The fact that it's Ann Catherine's last swim is bittersweet but it's also such a great reminder to us of how far she's come," says Amy George, "You know that she was born 1 pound 15 ounces and that she's been able to swim for 10 years that's a blessing and that's something we didn't know was ever going to happen when she was in the NICU."

At the race, Jerry Hayes' voice filled the Hampton Cove swimming area mixed with the sounds of splashing and swimming,  "Welcome to 14th annual swim for Melissa."

The kids have fundraised all summer long, today they show up with their team and they swim for five minutes as many laps as they can.

It's not a competitive swim, it's meant to be a fun celebration.

"I'm excited I'm a little sad that it's my last time to swim, I'm excited, a little nervous but I'm ready," says Ann Catherine

Before Ann Catherine starts her race, she and her friends yell  "1-2-3 Swim for Melissa!" Then, they get ready to take off.

Amy George says the purpose of the event is to raise money and inspire parents who have been in similar circumstances,  "Life hands us circumstances that feel hopeless and so sad we have two choices we can fight or give up and for me giving up was never an option because she never gave up, she fought and Ann Catherine fought and so I had to fight and so my message to parents who are going through this keep fighting, keep swimming."

This year the swim also had a new feature including an interactive area where children had the opportunity to experience how tiny and fragile NICU babies are.

The goal this year was to raise $200,000 dollars to buy 10 new NICU bed areas. The final numbers have not come in yet but the organization is confident they reached their goal.

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