The summer holidays will be particularly well-earned for the students, staff and parents at Lavington School in Wiltshire following a phenomenal swimming challenge for Cure Leukaemia.
Three teams of Lavington Chasers took on the incredible feat of swimming the English channel as part of the Go Archie fundraising events in support of student Archie Stradling, now thankfully in remission after being diagnosed with leukaemia last year.
The swim was organised by the school’s Senior Deputy Headteacher Lisa Adams, marking a ‘special birthday’, and the latest in a long list of annual challenges which she takes on, often supported by and involving pupils from the school.
To be considered an ‘official’ crossing of the Channel, participants were only able to wear swimwear and not a wetsuit, leading to the grim anticipation of doing battle with many jellyfish enroute.
In an interview with BBC Wiltshire, Lisa explained this ended up being the case, ending up with jellyfish stings on her back, leg and lip, and one of the three relay teams having to abort their challenge due to one swimmer being surrounded.
The other two teams did finish in 13 hours and 16 hours respectively, but the third are not to be deterred with their fundraising effort, and are aiming to give it another go at some point in the future.
“The jellyfish was one of those things which we knew was going to happen, and we just had to get on with it,” Lisa told BBC Wiltshire.
“The second boat which unfortunately didn’t make it went out in beautiful and sunny conditions, but that brings all the jellyfish to the surface as they come up to feed.
“One of the students was surrounded, and we had to abort that swim, but the team have decided to go back and have another attempt at a later date.
“We have managed to raise over £7,500 so far, but with other fundraising we have done we are still hoping to maybe reach £10,000.
“It was a great experience for everyone involved and a chance to make memories.”
A large number of students took part in the swims, many alongside family members, including Ivan, who relished the opportunity.
“I did the swim alongside my Dad,” he told BBC Wiltshire.
“I was going to do it alongside my sister who is a good open water swimmer but she was busy.
“We all had to qualify by swimming for two hours in the cold and, because I am really skinny, I didn’t think I could do it.
“But I managed to come through, and then do the actual Channel swim as well, and it is amazing to think you can do something which you didn’t think that you could.”
A number of different activities have taken place to boost the Go Archie fundraising, including a team including Archie’s Dad Richard taking on the Bath Half Marathon, and another group led by Darren Bull cycling from Southampton to Liverpool.
“Archie was diagnosed while we were training and it was important for all of us to raise money for such an important cause which was so close to all of us,” said Harriet, another of the swimmers.
“I feel like I have become closer to my friends after completing the challenge together and gained some belief in what I can do.
“I think it will help set me up for later in life and other things I would like to do.”
Some of the swimmers even got to meet current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was on the campaign trail in the area at the time.
The Go Archie fundraising had already raised more than £20,000 for Cure Leukaemia even before the Channel swim.
Click here to make a donation to the fantastic Channel swim.
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