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Swim Serpentine 2022

Swim serpentine have asked swimmers to share their story detailing why they are taking part in this iconic challenge on the 17th Sept. So here goes - I will try to capture my story and hopefully cover my motivation and what has inspired me to complete the SWIM SERPENTINE ‘one mile’ challenge

‘S’ if for ‘swimming’. I have always loved it. My dad taught me to swim at a young age and my mum’s job on reception at the local pool meant I had so much opportunity to practice my swimming skills. In the school summer holidays, mum would take all of her children to work with her. We would swim until her shift finished. We were under strict instructions not to ‘hang around the desk’ while she was working. At this time, I dreamt of joining the swim club and having the opportunity to improve my stroke and become a better swimmer. As a middle child in a large family (I was number 5 of 7 children) where money was tight, I just knew swim club membership was not possible. I don’t think I even asked.

‘W’ is for ‘why’ I have taken so long to take up swimming again and more importantly branch out into ‘wild’ swimming. There is so much emerging evidence for health benefits surrounding cold water swimming including improvements to physical and mental health. I have noticed a boost to my immune system - I bounced back quickly from Covid just weeks after starting cold water swimming. I have noticed the natural high each Sunday morning after a training session and also the improved energy levels that have been recorded on my fitness tracker throughout the week. But most importantly cold-water swimming has created an opportunity post covid to socialise with my friends which has helped improve my wellbeing. I have found cold water swimming has been calming and centring!

‘I’ is for getting ‘in’. There has been a sense of achievement as I have ‘immersed’ myself in the cold water repeating the mantra ‘ I’ have got this, ‘I’ feel energised and I am glad to be swimming. The getting in is the hardest bit!

‘M’ is for motivation why I am doing this and what helps me to keep focused on training each week. Fi ,my middle child, is my motivation and so too is raising awareness of FEES Fund the very special charity set up in her memory. Fi died aged 17 in a car accident close to home in 2016. I hope she would be proud and not too embarrassed by her mum drawing attention to how wonderful and incredible she was in life. Keeping Fi’s memory alive has been an important motivation

‘S’ Is for ‘surviving’ and inner ‘strength’. The unexpected death of a child at any age is unbearable. Fi was on the cusp of adulthood and was going to have impact on the world. Her strong moral compass meant that she would have continued to stand up for the things that were important. I believe she would have worked towards positive changes and the creation of a fairer society. The swim serpentine event is the opportunity to raise money for FEES Fund so young people can take part in enrichment education support activities but also to raise awareness of having conversations about organ donation. Fi became a multiple organ donor having left her family certain about her organ donation wishes following death. Please have conversations about organ donation during organ donation week which takes place from 17th – 25th September. As part of the serpentine event, we are contributing our swim miles to the Southmead hospital ‘race for recipients’ organ donation week challenge. 7000 people are currently waiting for life saving transplants. Together supporters from each hospital aim to reach 7000km by running, walking, cycling or SWIMMING!

‘E’ is for ‘energy’. Since Fi died my energy levels have been low. Some days the grief has been overwhelming sapping all enjoyment in life leaving me feeling ‘exhausted’ and ‘empty’. Everyday has been hard, and a real adjustment requiring me to learn how to hold my emotions and to edge-forward in a strange new world where everything has changed. The sudden and unexpected death of a child is an enormous weight to carry. A focus on maintaining energy has been critical when building a new way of living following loss.

‘R’ is for rest. The training programme points out the importance of regular rest days to support improvement and recovery. My rest days have been used for recharging and reflection on how far I have come both with my swim training and also on my grief journey. I have learnt to relax and evaluate what’s important in life. I have gained new perspectives and a grief superpower. I hope the recharging and reflections gained from resting stay with me as I swim the full mile lap of the serpentine!

‘P’ is for being ‘positive’ and a remembering anything is ‘possible’ if you stay focused, train regularly and surround yourself with the support you need. I am still nervous but I hope the nerves can be channelled with positive thinking to help give the final push needed to complete the challenge. I know I will feel proud on the start line representing FEES Fund and even prouder when the challenge is completed and I have passed the finish line.

‘E’ is for everyone who has been supporting me since Fi died and with the encouragement surrounding this latest challenge. Such a wonderful supportive family, kind friends and colleagues and such generous sponsorship. All the support and encouragement from everyone has been so appreciated. Thank you to everyone!

‘N’ is for ‘now’ - a moment in time. Now is such a challenging time for so many children and young people. FEES Fund has been set up to create funding opportunities so that children and young people can raise their aspirations and take part in activities that will help nurture a love of learning. The next deadline for the FEES Fund panel take place on the 30th September 2022. If you know a young person who would benefit from a FEES Fund grant please encourage them to visit the website and see if they meet the eligibility criteria Please help spread the word about FEES Fund grants and help encourage applications at the next and future panels

‘T’ is for Trustees. FEES Fund has nine incredible Trustees all volunteers that give their time and share their skills so generously in helping to further FEES Fund charitable purpose. Three other FEES Fund Trustees are undertaking the Swim Serpentine challenges with me (Jo, Julie and Jane) . We all aim to help raise the profile of FEES Fund and making people aware of the funding that is available.

‘I’ is for inspire. I have been inspired by others who have taken on FEES Fund challenges. The walkers on Dartmoor and the three peaks, the marathon and half marathon runners in London, Bristol and Manchester and the 6 incredible cyclists who recently completed the RideLondon 100-mile challenge. And also Fi’s cousins who completed the Croyde Bay triathlon A challenge involves you moving beyond your comfort zone and extending your current abilities. It’s so much easier if this involves taking part with others who are ready to catch you when you wobble. I am so glad I am joined on this challenged by Jane, Jo and Julie. You all inspire me each day and have made training and preparation for swim serpentine SO much fun!

‘N’ is for never stop learning and trying something new. I didn’t think at the age of 58 I would be taking up a new interest and feeling confident to take on an open water swim challenge. I wonder what I will try next ……

‘E’ Is for education and the importance of enjoying learning. In sharing my story, I hope you also feel inspired, open to new opportunities and will not limit what is possible even when negative life experience knocks you back. Some of the greatest learning happens when we feel safe to push the boundaries and overcome the barriers. Challenges are an important enrichment activity that also builds memories, can be life affirming and creates future opportunities for individuals. We all need more challenges in our lives to help support ongoing learning and so much better when undertaken with friends and with a whole community of support.

FEES Fund grants are available for children and young people aged between 7- 25 to take part in enrichment education support activities (including undertaking personal challenges!) FEES Fund grants aims to spread kindness by addressing financial barriers and creating opportunities for children and young people, previously excluded because family finances are tight, so they CAN take part. FEES Fund grants have been awarded to raise aspirations and build ‘communities of support’ for children. This has included grants for music lessons, outdoor activities, gardening clubs, maths clubs, gym competitions, swimming lessons and swim camps, school and university trips to other countries, ballet summer camps.

The closing date for the next panel is on Friday 30th September 2022

FEES Fund Trustees would love to hear from other supporters also wanting to take part in a challenge that could also help raise funding for FEES Fund.

Vicki Caldwell

Aug 2022

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