A record number of swimmers will make a splash to raise cash in memory of Fylde meningitis victim Edward Dee.
Lytham St Annes Lions’ latest swimarathon, this year raising funds for the charity set up in Edward’s name, has attracted unprecedented interest.
Entries have been closed in advance for the first time in the event’s 32-year history, with more than 500 swimmers set to take to the water at St Annes YMCA Pool on Sunday, January 28.
Edward’s mum Elizabeth said: “The response has been phenomenal.”
The event, which last year raised £13,500 for Brian House children’s hospice and has generated more than £200,000 for a wide variety of good causes over three decades, will feature 66 teams, which is far and away a record entry.
The Lions have already added an hour at each end of the event to accommodate as many teams as possible and it will run for 11 hours, from 8am to 7pm.
Organiser Joe Woods said: “I have been involved with the event for 31 years and I have never known anything like it.
“We have said in previous years that 54 teams is as many as we can take but this year the demand to take part has been such that we have had to go way beyond that, extend the time the pool is available and now draw the line at 66.
“It’s an incredible response.”
The Lions have set a target of raising £15,000 in sponsorship cash, which would take the Edward Dee Forever Fund for Meningitis Now over the £80,000 mark. The fund currently stands at £68,000 raised in little more than a year.
Elizabeth Dee said: “I remember chatting to Joe and him telling me that for the past few years they have struggled to get enough teams. I said I didn’t think he would struggle this year as I knew that so many who knew Edward would want to get involved and do something special for him.
“People are swimming in this event who have never done anything like this before, and nor would they if it weren’t for the fact that they’re doing it for Edward.
“The fact that so many teams have registered is again testament to the love this community has for Edward, and I find it really touching and comforting that Edward is held in such high esteem by so many.”
Edward’s family, led by dad Justin, will have a team in the event, while his school Clifton Primary has entered four teams, as has Heyhouses Primary School.
Local swimming coach Eileen Bailey, a long-time supporter of the event, has 12 teams involved – and interest is not confined to the Lytham St Annes area, with swimmers coming from all across Fylde. Kirkham’s Carr Hill High School, for instance, has entered six teams.
Joe added: “Clearly the fund for Edward is something so many people want to support and the fact that this year for the first time we have offered online entries has helped further with the increased interest.
“It’s going to be the biggest ever swimarathon by a long way.”
Meanwhile, a concert in memory of Edward, who died of meningitis, aged 10, in December 2016, takes place at Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College tonight.
The choir and samba band from Clifton Primary School will perform along with Lancashire Music Centre orchestras and string ensemble. All proceeds from the event will go to the Edward Dee Forever Fund.
The concert starts at 6.30pm and admission is £5 for adults and £3 for concessions, payable at the door.