Swimmers make a big splash for hospice care 

Lauren Presland of St Albans, with her dad Lee.

Lauren Presland of St Albans, with her dad Lee. - Credit: Rennie Grove Hospice

Plucky swimmers braved 15 degree water to raise funds for Rennie Grove Hospice.

The charity's Open Water Swim welcomed over 100 people to Merchant Taylors’ Lake on Saturday.

The event was the first active fundraiser held by the charity since last September.

Swimmers were invited to take part in either a timed and or untimed swim and were set off on their challenge one by one, meaning that participants of all capabilities were able to enjoy the lake in a safe and socially distanced manner. 

Swimmers jump into Merchant Taylors' Lake for the Open Water Swim.

Swimmers jump into Merchant Taylors' Lake for the Open Water Swim. - Credit: Rennie Grove Hospice

Rennie Grove volunteer counsellor Clancy Criss, who lives in St Albans. and friend Lou Ward were joined by their teenage daughters, none of whom had ever swam in open waters before.

Clancy said afterwards: “Once we got going, it was surprisingly enjoyable, I’m glad we went for it! The four of us have been fundraising too, so there are a few pennies coming Rennie Grove’s way too which is the most important thing.” 

Leonie Lowrie of Redbourn also took on the 400m swim as a newcomer to this style of swimming: “I’ve always had a hankering to try it, so when I saw that Rennie Grove were hosting, I thought hey, let’s give it a go!

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"I managed to convince some friends to dip their toes in with me and we’ve been encouraging each other.

"I didn’t know what to expect but it was just beautiful. To be out there, trying something new and exciting with friends and family after the year we’ve all had, and to be supporting a local charity, is brilliant.” 

Thee Open Water Swim also brought families together to take on a challenge together. Nine-year-old Maddy Merritt from Redbourn was inspired to take part with her mum Julia.

Nine year old Maddy Merritt with her mum Julia.

Nine year old Maddy Merritt with her mum Julia. - Credit: Rennie Grove Hospice

Maddy said: “Mum does it a lot and I wanted to try it, but I also wanted to raise some money for charity.

"It was a lot of fun, and the best bit was that even though it was cold at the beginning, once I’d warmed up it was relaxing. The hot chocolate I got at the end was also nice.

"This is my first time raising money and my grandparents have been sponsoring me. I’d definitely like to come back and give it another go!” 

Also taking part with a parent was Lauren Presland of St Albans, who beat her dad, Lee to the finish line.

Lauren, who came first in the 400m timed challenge with a time of 00:06:59, talked about why she took part: “Rennie Grove cared for my aunty, so I wanted to take part and raise money because it meant a lot to our family. We’ve raised over £700 so far.”

As a keen swimmer, Lauren has swum in open water before, but never at Merchant Taylors’ Lake: “I really enjoyed the swim; it was a good challenge. We’d love to come back and do it again.” 

Rennie Grove senior challenge and special events fundraiser, Emily Elvin, said: “We’re thrilled to be hosting outdoor fundraising activities again, and it’s wonderful to see people coming out to show their support.

"Our swimmers have done brilliantly, raising an amazing £12,200 towards our nursing care and support for local families facing life-limiting illness. Thank you to Active Training World for supporting the event and helping everything run smoothly on the day. 

“Families have been depending on us more than ever during the pandemic, and we continue to rely heavily on the generosity of the community to keep our services going.

"Thanks to our supporters, our nurses have been able to keep visiting patients in their homes throughout. Thank you to everyone who participated, your support will help to keep patients at home with their loved ones and make every moment together matter.” 

Visit www.renniegrove.org/events to find out the other exciting challenges coming up this year.