Driven by a desire to help save young lives, three/four teams of swimmers will attempt to complete one of the most gruelling feats of human endeavour when they swim the English Channel in aid of the Doncaster-based Children’s Air Ambulance.
Nearly 146 years after Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to complete the swim from Dover to Calais, three/four teams of six will navigate the 22.5-mile stretch as a relay in an effort to raise vital funds for the national lifesaving charity.
The swimmers will become part of a worldwide “family” of people who have conquered the famed stretch of water, home to the world’s busiest shipping lanes, but more than that they will help to keep families together through supporting the critical work of the Children’s Air Ambulance.
The event is the brainchild of Linda Williamson, wife of charity CEO Andy Williamson, who will spearhead an over-70s team when they gather on Dover shores to attempt the challenge in June 2021.
“There are so many inspirational stories as a result of the work of this important charity and, therefore, I want to do something that inspires others to support the cause through sponsoring our channel swim.
“The response to date from people wanting to take part has been fantastic but that is just the beginning. What we need now is to ensure all of our efforts - the hours, days, weeks and months of training - are rewarded through donations to the charity.
“I enjoy swimming but this is going to be a huge challenge for me and many of my team mates but it pales into insignificance when we think about the challenges faced by some of our young patients, and their families.”
The Children’s Air Ambulance is a national service which is changing the face of paediatric and neonatal care through the high-speed transfer of critically ill babies and children - flying them from one hospital to another for specialist care.
Two clinically designed helicopters, based at Doncaster Sheffield Airport and Oxford Airport, provide flying intensive care units and work with 10 NHS paediatric retrieval teams across the UK. If a child is too sick to fly then the Children’s Air Ambulance can fly a specialist team directly to them.
All transfers of critically ill babies and children carry an inherent risk – the longer a child is out of the hospital, the greater that risk – but the aircraft’s ability to fly approximately four times faster than land ambulance minimises travel times and risk.
Charity ambassador, TV presenter and model Rosie Tapner has also added her support to the cause and is currently in training to complete the course.
“I am extremely excited to announce that I will be taking part in the Children’s Air Ambulance Channel Swim Relay event in June.
“I’m a keen supporter and ambassador for the charity and have seen first-hand the important work that it does. When I heard about the Channel Swim I thought what better way than helping to raise awareness of its lifesaving work while raising money.
“The Children’s Air Ambulance receives no government funding for its daily missions and relies entirely on voluntary donations to raise the £3,500 needed for every mission. This is an important cause and I encourage people to and show their support.”
The challenge event will also feature a team of clinicians from across the charity’s clinical partner teams. Paediatric intensive care consultant at Evelina London, Dr Shelley Riphagen explained: “We’re excited to be involved in this event and look forward taking on this physical and mental challenge for the Children’s Air Ambulance.
“The close partnership we have with the charity enables us to safely transfer critically ill babies and children – helping to save young lives – and we welcome the opportunity to give something back to the charity.
“We wish everyone participating the best of luck, including those from Evelina, and encourage the public to support this challenge.”
People can follow the teams taking part as they work towards their goal. They will be sharing their training and journeys as well as how you can show support to help keep them motivated.