Rustington ‘mermaid’ Gill Walby dived straight in when her sister set a challenge for her big birthday.
The aim is to raise £6,000 by December 7 for Cancer Research UK and Thames Valley Air Ambulance, to celebrate Elaine Bywaters’ 60th birthday.
A fitness instructor from Wantage, Elaine has asked past and present clients, plus friends and family, to come up with ways to raise money with a 60 theme, instead of giving her a gift.
Gill, 62, of Broadmark Beach, Broadmark Lane, chose a two-mile swim to support her sister.
She said: “I am ex-Navy, therefore being in the water is quite natural to me. To keep with the theme, I swam 60 Olympic lengths, which is 120 lengths of Littlehampton pool – just over two miles.”
The chosen charities mean a great deal to Gill and Elaine, following two close family tragedies.
Gill explained: “Our mother suffered and subsequently died of bowel cancer and our brother, only 61, had to be attended by air ambulance whilst on holiday in Wales.”
She added that her brother had received wonderful treatment and kindness from the ambulance crew.
The sponsored swim was at Littlehampton Swimming and Sports Centre last Sunday, with Elaine and Gill’s husband Ken there to spur her on. Freedom Leisure allowed her a private lane and a table was set up with collection buckets and sponsor forms. She has raised more than £800 so far and hopes to reach £1,000.
Gill said: “The first 40 lengths were the most difficult and luckily I only had short bursts of cramp in my calves and foot arch.
“I managed the 120 lengths non-stop in slightly over two hours.
“I want to thank Paul Douglas-Smith, general manager, and his staff for their help with this challenge. Thanks also to the Cancer Research shop in Rustington for providing me with the necessary promotional materials.”
Elaine’s 60 Challenge has raised nearly £3,200 so far. Visit make-a-donation.org/fundraisers/elaine-s-60-challenge-team to make a donation.