Hope Valley youngsters raise thousands for Ukraine with Channel swimming challenge

A group of Hope Valley children have raised more than £3,300 to help people affected by the war in Ukraine, after teaming up to swim the length of the English Channel in under one hour.

By Ed Dingwall
Tuesday, 22nd March 2022, 10:00 am

17 youngsters from the area around Grindleford, Froggatt, Eyam took 52 minutes to swim 32 kilometres at Hathersage Lido on Monday, March 21.

The youngest was aged just six, the oldest 15, and between them the group swam an average of just under 40 lengths each.

Fin Hayes, 11, from Grindleford Primary School, said: “I am amazed that we’ve done it. I’m so happy that the money we raised is going to such a good cause.”

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The cold but elated swimmers who have raised thousands of pounds for the British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal.

The idea started with Fin and friends Alfie Campbell and Charlotte Allaway, all members of Matlock and District Swimming Club.

Alfie’s mum Jane said: “This very much came from the kids themselves. In this day and age, you can’t hide what’s going on from them. They’ve been seeing people their age go through horrible experiences, and it’s very scary for them.

“The natural response is to talk to each other and say, ‘what can we do to help?’ It wasn’t really about the achievement, it was about giving it a go and caring enough to try.”

After the trio set themselves the improbable challenge, word soon got around other members of the swimming club and the friendship circles beyond.

Alfie, nine, also from Grindleford Primary School, said: “I thought this was going to be impossible but I had friends to back me up, and we did it, as a team. That means a lot to me.”

All of the participants took to the water at 4pm, with the strongest swimmers powering through almost without stopping, and the smallest doing half-lengths in the shallow end of the 30 metre pool.

Jane said: “They came out of school in the afternoon and saw the fundraising total was over £2,000 and it was a real surprise, but it made them see what they could achieve when they had an idea, set their mind to it and rallied the community to come together in support.

“They knew they were up against it but they swam their hearts out. With only minutes to spare before the hour mark, it wasn’t clear that they would reach the distance until close to the end but they were cheering each other one all the way.”

She added: “They were on such a high at the end, but very cold. Some were looking a bit blue, but they warmed up with hot drinks and loads and loads of cake.

“Thanks Hathersage Lido for opening up especially for us, mums Sarah Hayes and Julia Pritchard for helping the kids realise their ambitions, and everyone who’s donated. The kids had no idea they would raise this much, but it means a lot for other people to value what they’ve done.”

Eyam Primary School pupil George Booth, aged ten, said: “I loved the challenge of the swim. I wanted to stay and swim all the way back to England too.”

To add to the fundraising total, go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/ukraineswimathonhathersage.