HEARTFELT tributes have been paid to a young swimmer who was a ‘delightful young man’.
Littlehampton Swimming Club united over the Christmas period to swim a total of 21 miles – the distance between Dover and Calais – in memory of former member Elliott Bignall, 17, who died in September.
A total of 119 people took part in the event, held at Inspire Littlehampton’s swimming centre, raising about £650 for Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice.
Denise Hunter, club chairman, said the night was full of both tears and fun, with many past swimmers coming back to take on the challenge as a final send-off to the popular youngster, who had been a member for seven years before leaving to pursue his GCSEs.
Describing Elliott, Denise said: “He just did everything you asked of him. He was quiet and was just a delight to coach.
“He stole my heart, that’s why he was extra special to me. He just did everything that you asked and never gave any backchat.
“He was just a delightful young man.”
The event started with a one minute silence, with swimmers as young as four, pausing to reflect on Elliott’s life.
The contingent then heard one of the teenager’s favourite songs, A Sky Full of Stars, by Coldplay – which was played during his funeral, last year.
Elliott’s parents, Trudi and Pete, and his sister Amy, were visibly touched by the sentiment, Denise said.
“They were deeply touched and overwhelmed,” she added. “There were a few tears but more smiles as the night went on, which was lovely to see.
“I think they were just overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone. It was a great night.”
Six teams took part in the race, with each swimming a total of 227 lengths between them.
The club managed to complete the gruelling 21-mile distance in a combined time of 7hr 31min 49sec.
A raffle was held, with prizes including quality hampers made by some of Denise’s family.
To round the night off, and raise a few more smiles, coaches threw Elliott’s sister, who was also a former club member, into the pool – fully clothed.
“Out of something so tragic came a really positive night,” added Denise.