Former Olympic champion praises swimathon success

Tue, 26 Sep 2017

Former Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington has praised the outstanding efforts of Monmouth students and staff who swam over 5,000 lengths in support of a houseparent whose family’s home in the British Virgin Islands was destroyed by a hurricane.

Pupils from Monmouth School for Girls’ Augusta House, the Sixth Form boarding facility, came together after devastation hit the family of Assistant Houseparent, Mr Sam Parsons.

Mr Parsons’ brother Tim Parsons, mother Gill and stepfather Rob Hales were on the island of Tortola in the Caribbean when Hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the island, flattening homes and businesses.

Fifty-two people took part in Sunday’s three-and-a-half-hour swimathon in Monmouth which looks set to raise more than £2,500 for the Virgin Unite appeal.

Mr Parsons’ partner, Miss Pippa Williams, also an Assistant Houseparent in Augusta House, was overwhelmed by the incredible support.

“It was an immense community effort which saw the whole boarding house come together,” said Miss Williams, who organised the swimathon.“We felt useless from the comfort of our boarding house and we wanted to do something to help the hurricane victims in the British Virgin Islands.

“We swam a fantastic 5,326 lengths – equivalent to an area covering the three largest islands in the British Virgin Islands – Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Anegada.

“Some girls swam 300 lengths while others did what they could – in some cases two or three lengths with a float – so it was an overwhelming effort with everyone chipping in.

“Those who didn’t swim, proved vital on the poolside, counting endless numbers of lengths and encouraging everyone in the water.

“We had messages of support from swimming star Rebecca Adlington on social media before and after the event and that helped to inspire and motivate the girls.

The girls also made and sold 45 friendship bracelets and 40 personalised water bottles to raise money.

So far Miss Williams and her team have received nearly £900 in online donations and £500 cash, with donations still pouring in. The school’s charity committee has also agreed to pledge up to £1,000 to support the girls’ fundraising efforts.

Miss Williams said: “One girl who said she would do 20 lengths, ended up completing 130 lengths which typified with spirt throughout.

“Afterwards, Housemistress Ms Julie Ann Morse cooked vast quantities of pasta which we ate together and raised a glass of Bucks Fizz to celebrate the efforts. It was a wonderful way to round off what had been a hugely successful evening.”

Mr Parsons’ mum and stepfather are scheduled to arrive at Gatwick Airport tomorrow (Wednesday) on an emergency flight from hurricane-ravaged Tortola.

They plan to spend time with friends and family in South Devon as they absorb the devastating events of the past few weeks.

Mr Parsons added: “My parents messaged us after our swimathon to say well done and how very proud they were of everyone’s brilliant achievements.”