On 16th September Kay Fox, better known as Ghouls, and a team of three other friends managed to swim from Gosport across the Solent to the Isle of Wight. It was the thought of raising money and support for Aspire rather than the satisfaction of completing the challenge itself that had pushed Ghouls and the team to sign up. After looking online, she found the challenge on Aspire’s website and, having read about the charity’s work told us: “I liked Aspire’s ethos and practical approach to those who have sustained life-changing injuries.”

All the swimmers who took part standing by the Aspire banner

In June 2018 Eric, a close friend of Ghouls’, had surgery to remove a benign tumour from his spine which unexpectedly resulted in paralysis. Ghouls described how she had felt at the time saying: “feeling helpless, having heard the tragic news of Eric’s paralysis following his operation, we were compelled to do something by way of raising some money and awareness for people like Eric”. It was this that led her to commit to the swim and begin raising money for Aspire.

Soon after the team of four began fundraising they were receiving considerable amounts of money. Ghouls commented that

“Eric and his wife Pip also spread the word far and wide about Aspire and our challenge, which has in turn brought many generous donations from their friends, family and colleagues. A testimony to the incredible people they are.”

As a result of their combined efforts by the day of the challenge Ghouls and her team had raised a whopping £19,000 for Aspire. This is, by a clear margin, an Aspire record for the most a team has raised as part of a Solent Swim. The difference this will make to people with Spinal Cord Injury, like Eric, is enormous.

Before the challenge had even started the team had successfully raised an awful lot of money and awareness for Aspire; Ghouls had succeeded with that part of her goal, all that was left was the swim. Never having done a challenge like this before she was not underestimating its difficulty. Depending on the pull of the tide Aspire’s Solent Swim can measure anywhere from two and a half to three miles so is not a challenge to be sniffed at. Wind strength, wave height and the tide are all factors that can go against swimmers in the Solent. On 16th September it was looking like it was going to be the wind that caused the most problems but luckily for the team the conditions held just enough for the swim to go ahead.

Swimmers with their kayakers in Gilkicker

“After a last-minute decision to go ahead, due to potentially gusty winds, we were tipped into the water at Fort Gilkicker, near Gosport, at 8am. With two medics, two RIBS, one control boat, 12 kayakers for 12 swimmers, we launched ourselves into the choppy sea in order of green hats, orange hats, yellow hats. Some with wetsuits on, some mad folk without. Having a few gulps of sea water, (exceeding our daily intake of salt) dodging the hovercrafts, bouncing around in the wake of boats, being submerged under waves, feeling a little queasy, batting off cramp, everyone made it across to Ryde on the Isle of Wight in one piece. Mission accomplished!”

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