A team of pupils, staff and parents from Lavington School in Wiltshire are currently on the crest of a wave as they take on the challenge of a lifetime for Cure Leukaemia.
Three relay teams – the Lavington Chasers - are ‘channelling’ all their focus towards swimming from England to France, to show support for student Archie Stradling, now in remission after being diagnosed with leukaemia last summer.
Swimming the 21 miles of the English Channel is the latest - and most ambitious yet - of a series of challenges put together by Senior Deputy Headteacher Lisa Adams which students are always keen to support.
The first of the three relay teams are already in the water, the first swimmer having set off from Samphire Hoe, between Dover and Folkestone, just after 2.30am this morning (Tuesday).
“I’m afraid to say this was all my idea, although I have had plenty of encouragement,” Lisa explains.
“I try and do some form of major challenge every year, and I speak to the students about whether we should make it a really big challenge and raise money for charity or keep it more low-key.
“In the past we have taken on challenges like riding to the Eiffel Tower, but this year, because I am celebrating a special birthday, we have decided on something even more ambitious.
“When we first started thinking about swimming the Channel, as soon as the information got out, I had parents phoning asking if it was going to happen, and after that there was no escape!
“The momentum started building and now we have over 15 students, aged between 12 and 15, and also a team of staff and parents.
“As well as the fundraising, we have got the students going out swimming with their mums and dads, and families are going to be making amazing memories together.
“It has been 14 months in the planning, with plenty of training, and over the last few weeks it’s just been a case that we couldn’t wait to get going!”
That training has included swimming in the sea in December with water temperatures as low as eight degrees, even more of a challenge when, to be officially recognised as swimming the channel, wetsuits are not allowed.
And that also leaves the swimmers open to another potential obstacle during the journey, expected to take between 16 and 18 hours.
“Jellyfish!” says Lisa.
“They are everywhere.
“It is swimming costumes and caps only so there is a need for the swimmers to grit their teeth and build up resistance, but they have been fantastic so far.
“The way it works, people will swim for an hour, get out and travel in the boat for a time, and then have to get back in the water and carry on, and that in itself needs a strong mentality.
“It is really positive for the students because it is giving them the skills and the character which they can then take into their everyday lives.
“Once they have been involved in swimming the channel, then preparing for and taking GCSE’s may seem far more straightforward by comparison!
“We are really proud of how they are taking on the challenge.”
All of the fundraising efforts will go towards the ‘Go Archie’ campaign to support Archie, and follows many different events so far including the Bath Half Marathon, cycling from Southampton to Liverpool, a fun run/walk, head shave and danceathon, which have raised in excess of £30,000.
“Archie has been doing really well which is great news and since going back to school has been concentrating on just getting back to life being normal again,” added Lisa.
“He has some friends taking part in the challenge and has been really supportive of everything we are doing.
“When we started out we were maybe looking to try and raise £5,000 but now we have gone past that and will be aiming to reach £10,000 for Cure Leukaemia if we can.”
Cure Leukaemia CEO James McLaughlin has admitted the charity is ‘in awe’ of what the Lavington Chasers have taken on.
“On behalf of everyone at Cure Leukaemia, I would like to wish Lisa and the team of students, staff and parents all the very best for such an exciting and testing challenge,” said Cure Leukaemia CEO James McLaughlin.
“It never ceases to amaze me the lengths people will go to in supporting our charity, and this is right up there as one of the more ambitious challenges to take on.
“We are in awe of what these young people are doing, and how much time they have put in to train for the challenge, supported so well by their parents and the Lavington School staff.
“Having said that, maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised given the incredible backing Cure Leukaemia has received from all the fundraising connected with ‘Go Archie’, and I am sure that swimming the channel will be another incredible experience to live long in the memory.”
Click HERE to visit the fundraising page and donate to this incredible challenge.
How funds raised for Cure Leukaemia help save lives