‘Silver Swimmers’ raise more than £16,000 for London Hospital

Brian Barwick OBE, former head of ITV sport and chief executive of the Football Association, alongside 19 other swimmers over the age of 60, swam the equivalent of the English Channel in one day for charity.

The swim, which was 33km long, took place in the Outdoor Pool in Richmond’s Pools in the Park, aiming to raise money for COSMIC (Children of St. Mary’s Intensive Care) which supports sick babies and critically ill children treated at St. Mary’s and Queen Charlotte’s Maternity Unit.

At the time of writing, their ‘Silver Swimmers’ fundraiser has raised more than £16,000, leaving Barwick stunned.

He said: “I’m delighted. People that I contacted to try and see if they’d be kind enough to donate all thought ‘what a great cause’.

“The fact that it was done by a group of people in the autumn of their lives, let’s hope not the winter of their lives, was not lost on people.

“We’ve had fantastic donations and seemingly, they are still coming in. So that’s great.”

Among the swimmers was Parviz Habibi, a pediatrician and COSMIC trustee who has swum the channel seven times and is responsible for coming up with the fundraising idea.

Barwick added: “Habibi helped create COSMIC. He and his colleagues, over many years, have saved a lot of sick children and young babies’ lives.

“This is just a drop in a very large ocean, in terms of funding the sort of work they do. 

“But one of the things that some of the money will be allocated for is the accommodation COSMIC have close by for parents, guardians, and friends when they’re needed at a crucial, crucial moment.

“Habibi introduced us to a lady who told the story about her son, who was born very premature, very, very small.

“Habibi and his colleagues saved the boy’s life and he graduated from university recently, so that brought into sharp focus why you do this.

“We’re older people helping those just coming into their lives with some medical issues that talented people like Habibi can help with.”

The swimmers, operating in teams, had to face not only the daunting task of 45 minutes in the pool, but also temperatures as low as two or three degrees celcius.

He said: “The group of people who swam in it, swim the same time every morning at 9:30.

“We’re all over 60, I’m 68 in June, and the oldest swimmer who swam on Monday will be 80 in about a fortnight.

“The first person got in the pool at 6:30 in the morning.

“I think the whole thing was completed by 7:30 at night and everybody did a little bit more than their target which is fantastic!”

Barwick had set himself the target of 80 lengths to be done in two sessions and managed to do 46 in the first 45-minute session, leaving only 34 in the second.

He said: “I was able to do my best. There were some people knocking 50, 60, and 70 lengths during the same 45-minute chunks.

“Some only did one session, if that was what they felt was appropriate – nobody was pushed further than they wanted to go, but equally, everybody gave it their very best, and everybody turned up.”

As a result of the event, the camaraderie between the ‘Silver Swimmers’ has only gotten stronger, and while Barwick wants to avoid any hasty decisions on future challenges, he is keen to recognise the importance of their work.

He said: “In the future, we’ll find something else that would be equally rewarding.

“But at the moment, I think that my fellow swimmers and I should understand just how fulfilling that experience was and how important it was in terms of raising much-needed funds for a very worthwhile cause.

“And we’ll be able to tell our grandchildren, in due course, that we swam the channel – nearly!”

Featured image credits: Silver Swimmers fundraiser

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