More than 500 people took part in the annual Galway Bay Swim in aid of Cancer Care West this year, despite the event going virtual, shattering all expectations.
The annual swim, which would normally see 150 people crossing the bay in July had to be reimagined for 2020.
The swim which sells out each year is now one of Ireland’s biggest and longest one day swims, and last year raised over €100,000 for Cancer Care West.
Starting from Aughinish in Co. Clare and finishing at Blackrock Diving Tower in Salthill, swimmers traverse roughly 13km of water across Galway Bay.
But COVID-19 made the usual format impossible, so in order to ensure that Cancer Care West raises the vital funds it needs in order to ensure its services are available to cancer patients and supports to their families, the charity called on people to swim the bay their way.
Participants were asked to cover that 13km distance in a way and place that was safe and convenient for them in August.
This year marked the 15th anniversary of the Galway Bay Swim, and in the 14 events prior, more than 740 people have taken part, showing how the swim has grown in popularity year on year.
“The swim is much more than a fundraiser; it’s the swimming highlight for so many swimmers across Ireland,” said Brian Thornton, Director of Cancer Care West.
“We needed to somehow still come together this year so we have decided that a 13km registered swim could still bring this swim into people’s lives.”
Not only did this year’s swim keep up the momentum, but it blew past all expectations, with over 500 people taking part across Galway, Ireland, and as far away as Australia.
“The swimming community in Ireland is a very tight knit one, we have all felt a little displaced through this pandemic, so coming together through the strokes gives us all a sense of place and purpose again.”
Last year’s swim raised over €100,000 for Cancer Care West, and the 2020 event hit that milestone as well over the weekend, an important source of funding at a time when charities are struggling.
“We have seen a drop of between 50-60% in our fundraising this year. All face to face charity fundraisers have had to stop so we are banking on this swim to try and ensure services for 2020.”
“The monies raised will help fund support services for cancer patients and their families through our support centres,” said Brian.