CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of swimmers across the country dove in head first for a great cause on Tuesday, in honor or one of their fellow athletes whom they lost four years ago.

As CBS 2’s Megan Mawicke reports, they hope to make a big splash in the search for a cure of a crippling disease.

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Ted Mullin was just like them; a young and vibrant college swimmer.

“He loved it, and he loved the camaraderie of being on the team,” his mother, Mary Henry, said.

The Winnetka native was a swimmer at Carleton College, but in 2006 at just 22 years old, Ted died from sarcoma, a rare soft-tissue cancer.

On Tuesday, more than 6,400 swimmers across the country, including the University of Chicago team, hit the pool at the exact same time in his honor for the “Ted Mullin Hour of Power,” an all-out relay.

“It is supposed to be hard. You’re supposed to struggle, like Ted struggled for his life,” said University of Chicago swimmer Ellie Elgamal.

“First and foremost he was a swimmer, competed in the same sport we to, he tried so hard but unfortunately his life was cut short and we’re glad to do it,” said University of Chicago swimmer Erik Widestrom.

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“It’s less than one percent of all of cancers in the country, but it particularly hits the age group 15-29, the age group where these swimmers are,” said Mullin’s father, Rick Mullin.

Dr. Stephen Skapek, a sarcoma researcher at the University of Chicago said, “They are increasing awareness and it is just a dreadful, dreadful cancer that is not that common and not on the radar screen like other cancers.”

In just 4 years, the “Hour of Power” has exploded from 15 teams participating to 137 colleges and high school teams on four continents. They have raised nearly $200,000, which will benefit sarcoma research at the University of Chicago.

“It’s interesting to see how it has spread around the country. Kids really glom onto this and they seem to enjoy it a lot. They get very enthused and it’s amazing to watch them do this and what we say,” Rick Mullin said.

“It’s a roller coaster of emotions because we wouldn’t be doing this if he wasn’t dead. There is this rock bottom sadness and loss that’s there, but on the other hand, there are all these people with energy and enthusiasm remembering him working hard to bring awareness to a disease that doesn’t have many good solutions so there is some happiness,” Mary Henry said.

“We have nothing to say but thank you,” Rick Mullin added.

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Click here to learn more about the cancer and “The Ted Mullin Hour of Power”