Ipswich firefighters prepare to take the plunge at Great East Swim
PUBLISHED: 18:02 05 June 2018 | UPDATED: 18:02 05 June 2018
Fundraising firefighters are making a splash for a good cause at one of Suffolk’s biggest charity challenges this summer.
Hundreds of people of all ages and abilities are taking to the water for this year’s swim on Saturday, June 23.
Hosted at Alton Water, it is the county’s biggest open water swimming event, and collects several thousands of pounds for charity.
Team members from the Princes Street fire station will be taking on the challenge for the second year in a row.
They decided to participate in memory of their colleague Tony Bickers, who died after being struck by a train in 2016.
Station commander Sally Hammond, who lost her brother to suicide in 2016, is taking part in the swim to raise awareness of mental health issues.
She said training was well underway, and added: “It’s going quite well. I think there are different levels of training.
“Most of our people are not natural swimmers.”
Firefighters at the station will be taking on different distances for the swim – with most taking part in the two mile category.
The team, along with the rest of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, are signed up to mental health charity Mind’s Blue Light Programme.
It was set up to support members of the emergency services with mental health issues.
Mrs Hammond said: “We need staff to talk more about mental health and recognise that mental health is as important as physical health.
“Getting fire crews involved in this is good for their mental health.”
Dale Mason, who took on the London marathon earlier this year in full kit, is getting ready to make a splash at this year’s event.
Mr Mason also swam in 2017, and aims to smash his time later this month.
Chief fire officer Mark Hardingham is also taking part.
Last year the crews managed to raise over £4,000 for charity – and they are hoping to match this in a few weeks’ time.
“We will try and raise as much as we can,” said Mrs Hammond.
As well as taking part in the swim itself the station will also be holding other fundraising activities including cake sales.