COPE Galway has extended its thanks to Galwegians near and far who have shown solidarity and support for local people in need this Christmas by taking part in the charity’s 10-day “Swim Where You Are” Christmas event, which ended yesterday. The charity, which was unable to hold its traditional Christmas Day swim at Blackrock this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, said it has been overwhelmed by the swim photos and messages of support sent in by well wishers.
For many Galwegians, this Christmas is about remembering and supporting our community while we connect with family as much as we can during restrictions. One swim participant, Jane Gleeson, captured the essence of this when she tweeted: “The sea has provided some much-needed respite this year. Now it’s our turn to give back by raising funds for vulnerable communities affected by homelessness and domestic abuse in the form of the COPE Galway Christmas Swim.”
Some participants used the COPE Galway swim as a basis for their own tailor-made fundraisers. Knocknacarra National School staff took on the challenge, and 18 teachers swam for COPE Galway. Salthill swimmers Laurie Link-Gordon and Gráinne Faller set up a fundraiser and swam every day in December. Transition year students at Coláiste na bPiarsach in Rosmuc did not let the rain deter them from swimming locally, enticing one $500 donation from America.
“It has definitely been a tough year for us all, but I’m hoping to raise money and awareness for the people who need it,” said Diarmuid Lynch, who took it to another level by completing a half marathon (21.1km ) from Rinville to Salthill followed by a swim from the Blackrock diving tower. He also shaved off his beard after the swim, fulfilling a promise to his supporters as he surpassed his fundraising target.
Catherine Lyons, who swam for the 11th year in a row, said the weather has never prevented her from “braving the cold” with her sister. “The swim has become an integral part of our Christmas tradition,” she said. “We always try to bring some festive fun in how we dress, from Santa hats to funky Christmas glasses, to even wearing a Santa onesie one year!” Because of social distancing, this year Catherine’s sister Aine did her swim at home in a cold bath tub.
“For the past 31 years, the swim has been an important Galway Christmas tradition,” said Lynia O’Brien, COPE Galway’s senior fundraising executive. “With people sacrificing so much due to the pandemic this year, we felt it was important to find a way to keep this tradition alive, not only as a vital source of fundraising income, but because we wanted to offer an opportunity for those who couldn’t make it home for Christmas to feel connected to family and to Galway.
“Our services have seen more people than ever before in need of support this year,” she added. “We are so grateful to the Galway community at home and further afield, who embraced this challenge and who have supported our work throughout the year. The funds raised allow us to continue to deliver our services for people experiencing homelessness, domestic abuse, and services for older people in Galway.”
Funds from the swim go directly towards keeping these vital services operating. If you wish to contribute, visit www.copegalway.ie/donate to make a donation.