Christine is swimming in memory of her friend Dennis
Christine is an Aspire Champion and has taken part in the Aspire Channel Swim 10 times since 2008
I found out about the Aspire Channel Swim in 2008 after our friend Dennis had a motorbike accident and sustained a high level spinal cord injury. The first time we did the swim 16 of Dennis’s friends got together one afternoon at the David Lloyd in Raynes Park and we swam the 22 miles in one afternoon. We felt that we wanted to do something to support Aspire as spinal injury was a very new area for us all to be learning about. After that, the Aspire Channel Swim became an activity that just happens for us from September to December; this is our 11th year.
I have always been a swimmer. I enjoy it for leisure, relaxation and it is wonderful being in water - maybe because I am a Pisces! I usually do my swim at Hampton Outdoor Pool, which is 28 degrees and always warm, but if I’m near another pool or away I will seek out any other pool to fit in the lengths. I always talk to other swimmers and look out for others. The Aspire swim hat usually creates conversation as people ask what I’m doing.
It’s very important to raise money for people with spinal cord injuries because an accident happens and life changes in an instant. We have discovered this so much over the last 11 years. There is no government funding available, so charities have to step in because a spinal cord injury turns your world upside down. This is what motivates me to do the Swim year after year. Having been in Dennis’s Care Team as friends, we saw first-hand that the massive challenges a person faces when they leave hospital are a very tall mountain to climb.
In 2008 spinal injury charities understood that 1 in 8 people sustain a spinal cord injury but in 2019 the statistics are 1 in 4. This means more people needing support in so many ways - and that means more money and fundraising are needed. In 2011 I was very fortunate to win a job at Aspire in 2011 through the Vodafone World of Difference Programme, for which 500 people won places at their chosen charities to work for two weeks. I did this for the Aspire Channel Swim and it was fascinating to see things from the other side at Aspire.
As this is the 11th year I’m taking part in the Swim I’m not sending out the online sponsorship links. I know everyone says it generates money, but I feel like I’ve exhausted that with my friends, so a few years ago we decided to start organising fundraising events. The Salsa nights were the best,which we started because we took part in Salsa classes at David Lloyd. We ran these for 4 years but the club cut their classes so the numbers of people interested went down, although we liaised with London Salsa and many followers came along to see Palenke Band, which was just amazing.
More recently we have been tapping into Waitrose for support (the green tokens in stores) but it’s not so easy of late as stores can receive 70 charity requests so it takes a long time to get chosen. Stalls at charity fairs work well, particularly as a way to publicise Aspire.
I think the best thing is to run an event for a fixed price and then people get something to enjoy as well, rather than just giving the money. I have a few events in mind but good planning is critical to making them a success and getting the right venue – there is a lot of competition out there for raising funds.
In January our friend Dennis died and was released from the enormous challenges that he had to overcome every day, which changed all our lives for ever. The money raised by Aspire can help those injured by providing support for them to live every day as independently as possible.