The Big Dip in Hove, organised by Jenny Weller and her WellerFest team of supporters, will see swimmers take to the sea on each day of advent.
It is the latest in a year-long series of fundraisers the group has planned in aid of charities Brain Tumour Research and ALK Positive UK.
Jenny, of Burgess Hill, said after the launch of the event: “Some people swam, some dipped and others dunked so there was a real mix of experience levels and enjoyment. There were definitely a couple of people who I thought, knowing they feel the cold like I do, wouldn’t like it but enjoyed it more than they expected and have joined the Salty Seabirds as a result.”
She added: “We had 20 go in the water all-together and then a few latecomers so about 26 in total in Hove, then we had one swimmer in Cornwall and another in Lisbon, Portugal. The air temperature was two degrees and the water temperature was apparently 11 but it may as well have been minus 11. I was probably in there for about 10 minutes or so because every time I went to get out someone else arrived and I didn’t feel like I could leave.”
The personal trainer was aged 35 when she was diagnosed with a primary tumour in her lung and five secondary tumours in her brain, as well as others in her neck and pelvis, in September last year after suffering a seizure at home the month before.
She underwent a craniotomy to remove the largest of her brain tumours and then used targeted drug therapy to try and slow the growth of her others. In September she experienced some progression and was put on a three-week course of radiotherapy, which she is still recovering from but that did not stop her from taking part on Sunday.
As well as bringing together novice and experienced sea swimmers, with members of Brighton’s Salty Seabirds and international sea swimming community The Bluetits among those represented, Sunday’s launch event also reunited Jenny with some of her medical team from the Royal Sussex County Hospital, including the lead neuro nurse from the ward she spent time on while recovering from brain surgery who was among those who turned up to offer her support to the swimmers.
Jenny said: “We had lots of people come down to watch and support us from the beach and many donated good money in the knowledge it was absolutely freezing. Andy Jackson was the first to put his hand up to go in and said he’d do it in a mankini if someone donated £50 – he chose a Father Christmas one and was a good sport about it.
“It was really nice to have some people down from the neuro ward and to be able to thank my lead nurse and let her know I’m still here and show her that I’m trying to do something with the opportunity she’s helped give me – without that craniotomy last year I wouldn’t be here.”
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “It was great fun watching Jen and other members of WellerFest brave the elements to complete this latest fundraiser. They’re amazing and have raised so much already to help fund vital research into brain tumours. I can’t wait to hear all about the many events they have coming up, which include a John O’Groats to Land’s End cycle ride, a Mount Snowdon climb and a 31-mile Run to the Sea Ultramarathon from Horsham to Brighton.”
To support WellerFest’s fundraising in aid of Brain Tumour Research visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/wellerfestbigdipbtr or search ‘WellerFest’ on Facebook.
To find out how you can get involved in your own festive fundraiser for Brain Tumour Research, including Wear A Christmas Hat Day, click here