MJ Voltz: The Voice of the Maggie Fischer Memorial Swim

            Right before the swimmers of the annual Maggie Fischer Memorial Swim cross the finish line, nearly completing the rigorous 5.5-mile cross bay swim from the Fire Island Lighthouse to Gilbert Park in Brightwaters, the master of ceremonies announces the swimmer’s name, number, and a brief biography to rally supporters for their final push. For the past eight years, Marijane (MJ) Voltz, a committee member, has been honored with this essential role.

            MJ’s journey with the swim began two decades ago when she met Mary and Bob Fischer, the parents of the event’s namesake Maggie, while on vacation with her husband Michael in Turks and Caicos.

            “I knew Maggie, and I knew the story, so we got into a conversation about how my mom was one of the first hospice nurses on the South Shore and how hospice was very important to all of us,” said MJ in an interview. “Ever since I was little, I was a volunteer to hospice, and it became a sticking point with the Fischers, and I knew I wanted to be involved if we ever moved back to Bay Shore.” The pairing felt like it was meant to be since participants are required to raise a minimum of $500 for the Hospice Care Network Children’s Bereavement Program and the Maggie Fischer Scholarship Fund.

            After deciding to move back to Bay Shore, having yet to fully move into her home, MJ received an invite to join the committee as the emcee. “They asked since I had such a big voice, and their son, who was the emcee, was moving to Chicago. It just happened that as he was moving out, I was moving in,” said MJ. Alongside this role, she actively assists in securing T-shirt sponsors, planning the after-party at Napper Tandy’s, and any other tasks where her expertise is needed.

            Throughout the years in her role, MJ has read numerous touching autobiographies that have had a profound impact on her and emphasized the significance of her role. “The stories that come from these athletes that are coming across the bay are sometimes heart-wrenching or inspiring; it’s just incredible,” said MJ. “I need to read these bios exactly the way they are written to me and just pay respect to each and every swimmer and kayaker that comes across. It can get very emotional.”

One swimmer’s story in particular struck a chord with MJ this year. The participant wrote about swimming for her brother, who passed away from a drug overdose. It was her opportunity to show her children the value of hard work and resilience. Although apprehensive, MJ read the emotional biography as she knew it was essential to honor the swimmer’s intentions. “Two weeks after the swim, she sent me a message thanking me for reading the bio the way that she wrote it and for reading it with such emotion,” remembers MJ. “I was so touched, and it just gave me the affirmation that this is what I need to do.”

This event has become a Voltz family affair. MJ’s daughter, Meave, is her right-hand-woman, using binoculars to identify incoming swimmers; her husband and her oldest son, Michael, kayak in the lead boat to guide the participants; and her middle child, Jack, helps load the kayaks onto the ferry the night before.

Despite the help of her family, committee members, and volunteers, MJ emphasizes that they always welcome more help. “If you want to get involved, just show up. If you lend a hand, we always need it,” said MJ. “The whole swim takes a community effort. It takes love and friendship, really just simple things.”