Two Steyning children are helping physically disabled youngsters learn to swim by setting themselves a year-long fundraising challenge.
Alongside their parents, seven-year-old Tom Welstead and his sister Grace, five, from Coombe Road are attempting to walk, run, cycle, scoot or swim 2,014km by the end of the year in aid of charity Level Water.
“We chose a challenge that we could do as a family, improving our fitness and giving us quality time together but, more importantly, it has taught Tom and Grace about fundraising and disability,” explained Tom and Grace’s mother Lindsey Welstead.
“We are really proud of how well they are doing and how committed they have been to helping other children get started in a sport they both love.”
As Tom and Grace are pupils at Upper Beeding Primary School and their parents Mike and Lindsey both work, it has been a big commitment to regularly average 50 km each week come rain or shine to reach their target which geographically would cover a straight line distance between Brighton and Casablanca.
The children have enjoyed long walks after school and at weekends, cycling along the Downs Link to Shoreham, swimming at least twice a week, and taking part in a ‘Scootathlon’ at Dorney Lake.
Tom said: “I like going out on my bike and going swimming, and it would be nice if all children could go swimming.”
At the time of going to press, the siblings have completed almost 1,400 km and are on target to finish in the autumn.
The money raised by Tom and Grace will all go directly towards opening a new site for the charity in Haywards Heath or Burgess Hill, making swimming accessible to disabled children in West Sussex.
Lindsey added: “Level Water supports physically disabled children aged 4 to 11 and gives them a fair start in sport by providing them with up to fifty one-to-one swimming lessons.
“This is usually a sufficient number of lessons to enable them to join mainstream classes or competitive clubs, and opens the door to a lifetime of sport.”
Ian Thwaites, founder of Level Water, explained the story of one girl who used the services the charity has to offer: “Daisy has cerebral palsy. She went to the Paralympics in 2012 and watched her hero win gold in the swimming.
“She wants to do the same, but couldn’t successfully join in with her school or local pool lessons. She is now physically independent in the water and has the same opportunities as any other child.
“She can swim with her friends and take the sport as far as she likes. Maybe she’ll have her own Paralympic gold in a few years’ time,” he added.
To make a donation, please see: justgiving.com/teamwelstead