A fundraiser in aid of the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) went swimmingly for a group of Cumbrians raising money for the life-saving charity.
Open water swimming novice Stephen Reid, a Penrith-based firefighter, learned the hard way when he tackled the length of Ullswater in August last year, a distance of eight and a half miles.
Sarah and Phil Graham, James Pittam, Graeme Higgins and Angela Watson all accompanied Mr Reid as he set off from Patterdale and finished, four hours and 52 minutes later, at Pooley Bridge steamer pier.
“It was completely new to me, the first open water swim I did, I lasted about five minutes,” said Mr Reid.
Several months earlier he joined Penrith-based Arragons Cumbrian Tri Club which is run by Mr and Mrs Graham where he received expert coaching, and made waves ever since.
Months of training then paid dividends as he completed the swim inside the five-hour target he had set himself. But he admitted it was not all plain sailing.
“The water was quite choppy on the day but I was ready for the challenge. I enjoyed it, although the last three miles really hurt,” said the father-of-two. “The sore shoulders and tiredness were more than worth it.”
The intrepid six were followed almost every stroke of the way by scores of friends who climbed aboard an Ullswater steamer to watch the stages of the swim.
Three months later, Mr Reid and his wife, Andrea, from Penrith, organised their annual charity sportsperson’s dinner where they raised funds through an auction with lots including signed football and rugby shirts. The guest speaker on the evening was ex-Leeds United player Gary McAllister and comedian Lea Roberts.
Mr Reid thanked friends who helped during the swim and rallied round at his latest fundraiser. They presented a cheque for £4,000 to medics at the GNAAS base in Langwathby on Jan 24th.
“We chose to support the charity because as a fireman I work with the GNAAS crews a lot – we deal with many road traffic collisions together. Personally, I think it is the best piece of kit ever brought to Cumbria with the amount of people’s lives it’s saved,” said Mr Reid.
Mandy Drake, head of fundraising at GNAAS, said: “It is great to see the front-line of the emergency services supporting each other in their spare time as well as during work hours, because they have seen first-hand the true importance of our air ambulance. Thank you to Steve and everyone involved in this tremendous effort.”