An airport firefighter is gearing up for an epic 24-mile fundraising swim to help support children and young people with cancer.
Simon Connolly, who works at Manchester Airport, plans to add his name to a very short list of people who have successfully swum the length of Loch Lomond in Scotland. Simon, a 52-year-old, only got into swimming in the last few years, as he looked for a new interest to replace rugby league.
1,540 swimming pool lengths
Now the self-confessed open water swimming addict has set himself his hardest challenge. The challenge will see him swim the equivalent of 1,540 lengths of a standard swimming pool and raise money for CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading charity for children and young people with cancer. He is aiming to complete the swim in September, weather permitting.
The charity is the official partner of the Manchester Airports Group, but Simon was particularly inspired to support it after losing his brother to cancer in 2016.
He said: “John was 58 when we lost him to cancer and things happened very quickly. It really makes you realise how quickly your whole life can change.
“I can’t imagine how devastating a diagnosis of cancer could be for a child or a young person so I think it’s really important they get that support.”
Despite being the age when many people are starting to put their feet up, Simon is relishing his training and the epic challenge itself. He has already fundraised close to £10,000.
“The majority of the challenge is going to be mental. Once you get into the water, your mindset just has to be that you will complete it. You just can’t let yourself give up. I’m expecting some knocks on the way, but I will just take it one stroke at a time.
“I definitely think there is an element of me telling myself: ‘I’m not too old, I can still do this’. I keep telling myself that I have hit my ceiling and can’t do anymore, but then I get drawn into doing something more. This is the big one though – it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever done.”
This will not be Simon’s first lake crossing, having previously swum Lake Windermere, Coniston and Ullswater. However Loch Lomond is more than double the length of Windermere, meaning he could spend around 18 hours in the water.
Simon will be supported on the swim by a safety crew – Swim4Miles - who will keep him stocked with food and energy drinks, so that he has the ability to keep going for the huge distance. He is also being sponsored by Terberg DTS, who have kindly covered all costs associated with the swim and without them Simon would not have been able to undertake this challenge.
Manchester Airports Group
In 2015, staff of Manchester Airports Group, the UK’s largest UK-owned airport operator, chose CLIC Sargent as its official charity partner. The group hopes to raise £1 million to help the charity support young cancer patients through a range of services, including social workers, nurse specialists, financial grants and free accommodation near hospitals.
Sam Scott, Fundraising Corporate Account Manager for CLIC Sargent, said: “This truly is an epic challenge and Simon is tackling it at the stage in his career when most people are looking for an excuse to put their feet up.
“We are all very impressed and very grateful for his support."
“CLIC Sargent receives no government funding, so it is only through the great support of donors and partners such as Manchester Airports Group that we are able to keep providing our vital frontline services to young lives affected by cancer right across the UK. We can’t wait to cheer Simon on in this fantastic challenge.”
To sponsor Simon, visit his fundraising site.
For more information, an interview or images please contact Nick Edmondson on 020 8752 2856 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Outside office hours please call 08448 481189.
About cancer in children and young people
Today, 11 more children and young people in the UK will hear the devastating news that they have cancer. Treatment normally starts immediately, is often given many miles from home and can last for up to three years. Although survival rates are over 80%, cancer remains the single largest cause of death from disease in children and young people in the UK.
About CLIC Sargent
When cancer strikes young lives CLIC Sargent helps families limit the damage cancer causes beyond their health. CLIC Sargent is the UK’s leading charity for young cancer patients and their families. We provide specialist support, to help and guide each young cancer patient and their family. We will fight tirelessly for them, individually, locally and nationally. For more information, visit www.clicsargent.org.uk
Note to sub editors
Please note that the name ‘CLIC Sargent’ should not be abbreviated to CLIC, and that the word ‘CLIC’ should always appear in capitals, as above.