Five minutes with our Aspire ambassadors

Oct 28, 2016

As we are now over halfway through our 2016 challenge, we thought it would be the perfect time to catch up with this year’s Aspire ambassadors and have a chat about their experiences so far.

Some of our ambassadors have been with us for years, for some 2016 is their first time, some are linked to Aspire directly and others hadn’t heard of our charity until recently.  

It’s important for us that we check in with our ambassadors and other participants on a regular basis, to recognise their achievements and share those achievements with others. 

Christine Berry

One of our longest standing supporters and fundraisers, Christine first got in touch with Aspire after a close friend was involved in a life changing motorcycle accident. Christine has always been a swimmer, but the devastation of what happened to her friend encouraged her to do more to help those with a spinal cord injury. Since 2011, Christine has been helping Aspire to travel around different leisure centres searching for new recruits to join our growing ambassador team.

“My Aspire swimming cap is my marketing tool. I regularly get asked about Aspire when people see my cap and the more people that do, the more awareness I can raise.”

Over the years, Christine has organised a number of fundraising activities, including a salsa dance night which was hosted through the Wheelchair Dancing School Association, where she raised over £1200 for Aspire!

What piece of advice would you give to future participants of the Aspire Channel Swim?

 “Have fun swimming the channel and learning all about the benefits of your involvement through Aspire. It doesn’t matter how much you raise, it all counts towards helping those affected by a spinal cord injury.”

Tom Clark

For 30 year old Tom Clark, 2016 is the first year he will have completed the Aspire Channel Swim and as far as firsts go…it’s a good one! Having already completed the 22 mile challenge, Tom has made the decision to swim the return distance, adding an additional 22 miles onto his journey!

“It was a pretty easy decision to make. I’m not a swimmer, I hadn’t swum properly in about 14 years, but as soon as I started the challenge I was hooked. I’ve had an overwhelming amount of support from family and friends, and that’s what makes you want to do more.”

Tom heard about the Aspire Channel Swim through his little sister, who expressed her interest in the challenge. Although Tom doesn’t have any personal links to Aspire, he has since discovered more about spinal cord injuries and once he found out that £3000 was enough money to buy a lightweight wheelchair, it spurred him on to raise as much money as possible.

Now up to £4,300, Tom is Aspire’s top fundraiser so far this year, and he is already planning his future challenges to push himself even further.

“I definitely would like to do the open water swim next year and finger’s crossed the Solent in 2018. If I really push myself it would be an amazing achievement to one day complete the real channel swim too!”

What piece of advice would you give to future participants of the Aspire Channel Swim?

“Just do it! I’m a great example – I didn’t swim or do much exercise before I began the challenge so it really does show that anyone can complete the channel swim and help contribute towards such a fantastic cause.”

Jim Donlon

Based in upstate New York, Jim Donlon took the Aspire Channel Swim stateside! Having gained a friend in regular fundraiser Andrew Butcher, the pair had engaged in some friendly trans-Atlantic competition, pushing each other in the pool. However, when Andrew unfortunately developed health implications, Jim decided to step in and do the swim in support of his health struggles and challenge.

“Indeed my initial reason for doing the Channel swim was to take Andrew’s place, and as a way of supporting him and giving him hope. It is also a small way I can reach out and help those facing the challenge of adapting to live with a spinal cord injury. The back pain I experienced a few years ago was minor when compared with the ongoing struggle these people face every day.  My back problems were just a small taste of theirs.”

Having been a swimmer since his college days, Jim is no stranger to the pool, but some back troubles took him away from the water and he only decided to get back into the pool a couple of years ago. Most days, Jim completes about a mile and a half in the pool, usually at lunch time to escape his daily office job!

“While the swim itself is a good challenge, it’s important to always keep in the mind why you are doing the swim. You will be surprised by the response of the people you ask to sponsor you; I have been both surprised and impressed by the enthusiastic response of so many people.”

What piece of advice would you give to future participants of the Aspire Channel Swim?

“Commit yourself and plug away at it. Find your pace, push yourself, but at the same time, bear in mind your ability and your limitations. You don’t want to push yourself too far, burn out, get discouraged and quit. Make it a fun and enjoyable time.  Oh, and watch out for those pesky channel ferries!”