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Some of the world’s top athletes gathered at Zuma Beach on Sunday to take the plunge into the Pacific Ocean for the annual Malibu Triathlon to raise funds for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ Pediatric Cancer Research Program.

Dr. Alan Wayne, director of the Cancer and Blood Disease Institute at CHLA, said the money raised from the event all goes to support cancer research at CHLA.

“We’ve lost millions of dollars through the COVID pandemic because we had to shut down our research labs,” Wayne said. “So to maintain momentum, to develop new therapies, safer therapies for kids with cancer, we need to jumpstart our research back.”

Malakai Carey, a 14-year-old cancer survivor, kicked off the event by singing the national anthem before competitors lined up at the starting line.

Carey was just 11 years old when he was diagnosed with liver cancer.

“For a year or two before I found out about it, I had a lump in my stomach and it was bulging. But multiple doctors, not from CHLA, thought it was just fat tissue,” Carey shared with KTLA. “So once I got an ultrasound, finally after a while, that proved it. And once I went to CHLA, they immediately felt it and they said it was a tumor.”

Dr. James Stein, who was one of Carey’s doctors who helped in his treatment, reunited with his patient just before getting ready for the competition.

“I’ve been at CHLA for about 25 years, so for me it’s an annual event that I love. And I love to support the organization myself,” Stein told KTLA. “It’s one of those unique things about pediatrics. We meet kids when they’re young and watch them grow up and live fulfilling lives.” 

Founded in 1901, the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is one of the largest providers of care for children in L.A. County. The hospital’s clinical teams treat patients ranging in age from newborn infants to young adults.

Correction: A quote in the story from Dr. Alan Wayne was not written exactly as he said it. The post has been updated.