The 30th Lytham St Annes Lions swimarathon has already set a new record – and officials are hoping another will follow when the event takes place this weekend.
A highest-ever total of 58 teams have signed up to take part and the Lions have extended their booking at the St Annes YMCA Pool venue into a 10th hour for the first time to accommodate all the participants.
It’s going to be non-stop swimming from the moment Fylde mayor Coun Peter Hardy signals the start of the event at 9am on Sunday right through until 7pm – and the Lions are hoping they will be able to celebrate the 30-year landmark with the highest cash total ever raised at a single Lytham St Annes swimarathon.
The Lions are aiming to generate £15,000 as they target twin charity objectives - more heart screenings for young people via the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk In the Young) after more than 200 attended a weekend session held locally last year, plus healthy heart advice in the classroom for every local primary school pupil.
The swimarathon has raised around £200,000 for various charities over the last three decades.
That includes some £30,000 over the last three, which has seen the focus put on aiding cardiac health, including funding defibrillators for local schools.
Lions spokesman Colin Holt said: “The response year after year has been wonderful and we are delighted with what the public’s backing has helped us achieve.
“We want to keep the momentum going and continue to do everything we can to save young lives and the reaction from the public has again been marvellous.
“We are delighted with the way the event has grown over the years and that we have been able to help so many good causes.”
Swimarathon organiser Joe Woods has been involved in all but one of the 30 swimarathons held by the Lions and he said: “The event just gets bigger and bigger and it is brilliant to see so many people of all ages rallying round to help good causes.
“The event continues to capture the public imagination every year and every time we think the participants and backers have done us especially proud, the event is even more successful the following year.
“Thanks so much to everyone who has signed up so far and we are looking forward to a great day.”
The first swimarathon attracted 180 entries – this year’s entrants will be more than 450.
That tally includes a substantial number of children, with practically all Fylde schools represented, many by staff as well as students, while swimming coach Eileen Bailey will again be fielding multiple teams of young people.
Philip Wood, headmaster of Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College, where the CRY screenings will again take place in May, said: “Our staff and students are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this fantastic fund raising effort and we are very grateful to the Lions Club for their effort and initiative.”
Rachel Legge of Clifton Primary School, St Annes, added: “The event has just got bigger and bigger in recent years and it really deserves all the backing we can give it, as the Lions are doing a great job.”
Lytham mum-of-two Holly Pugsley said at last year’s event as her children took part in the ‘Eileen’s Swimmers’ team: “It’s very exciting for the children to take part and it’s great for them to work as a team.
“It’s great for all the children to be involved in something that is giving to charity at an early age.”
The Lions’ efforts have come in for glowing praise from CRY chief executive Alison Cox, who founded the charity in 1995 after her son, Steve, was diagnosed with a heart condition while training at a tennis academy in the USA, aged just 18.
While the diagnosis signalled the end of Steve’s promising career, he was successfully treated and he has now gone on to become CRY’s director of screening and deputy chief executive.
CRY’s screening programme now tests around 15,000 young people aged between 14 and 35 every year and Alison said: “Since we launched in 1995, CRY has gone from strength to strength and thanks to the generosity and fundraising efforts of the public across the UK, we have been able to develop and grow a range of specialist services, from screening and research to our network of specialist bereavement support.
“Therefore, on behalf of all of us at CRY, a huge thank you to the Lytham St Annes Lions for choosing us as a beneficiary and for recognising the importance of cardiac screening.”
Heartbeat, founded in 1978 by Preston couple Keith and Rose Redman who lost their teenage daughter to heart disease, is a heart charity which works with 700 patients every week at various sites around Lancashire.
Manager Sian Percival-Edwards said: “The Lions are a fantastic group, who are always thinking about the next thing which can be done to help the next generation.
“I hope the swimarathon is a really big success.”
The Lions are still happy to hear from anyone keen to get involved in the event. Details from Joe Woods on 07528 483993.