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Entries open for the Lough Gill Hospice Virtual Swim 2021

Follow your last star

Entries open for the Lough Gill Hospice Virtual Swim 2021

Committee members Maria Taylor, David Downes, Lynsey Dunne and Paul ‘Sam’ McGarry

Organisers of the annual Lough Gill Hospice Swim have urged people to continue their generous support of local good causes, so charities can bridge funding gaps caused by the pandemic. 

The swim is held every year in memory of 29-year-old Neill McGarry who died from cancer in October 2010. It has raised a massive €350,000 since its inception for the North West Hospice, which helps fund vital palliative care services. 

A virtual event held last year raised almost €80,000.

This year the 10k swim, considered to be one of Ireland’s toughest outdoor charity swims, - takes place on Saturday, August 14, when the organising committee, including members of Neill’s family, will swim together in a special ‘swim bubble’ on Lough Gill.

In tandem, because of continuing restrictions on public events, the organisers are again encouraging people to enter a virtual version of the Lough Gill Hospice Swim – where participants complete their own swim in their own time.

Members of the swim’s organising committee will formally launch this year’s event by staging a special 10k night swim in Lough Gill under a full moon at midnight on July 24. 

Sam McGarry, Neill’s uncle, who will swim the event, explained: 

“We’re calling it the ‘Follow your last star’ swim. The ethos of the Lough Gill Swim is that ‘nothing great is easy!’ and on Neill’s headstone there is a quote from a song he wrote that says, "Follow your last star". 

“We felt that this year, these two elements were a perfect fit. Neill saw the world for how small it was and saw the universe for how diverse it was.

“The sense that ‘nothing is easy’ applies not only to the swim that we organise but also to the fact that charitable events, and not just ours, need the public’s support more than ever to help them maintain and support services that make a difference for people.

“This year, we will continue to follow that star, in memory of Neill, to honour his memory, to support the hospice which is the most important service in our region, and which matters so much to so many people. Yes, ‘nothing great is easy’ - but we are also urging people all over Ireland to support their own local charities and the inspiring differences that they make.”

Sam is urging as many people as possible across the North West to take part in this year’s virtual swim, where participants can complete their swim in support of the August 14 event. 

“Of course, we would love to be able to run the event as normal and have many swimmers/kayakers but due to the restrictions and insurance, it is not possible. 

“As a result of the overwhelming success of the virtual swim last year, we have decided to once again, invite everyone to take part in the Lough Gill Hospice Virtual Swim. This year you can swim 10k or 2k in the weeks leading up to the main event on August 14.”

The Lough Gill Hospice Swim is considered a real test of a swimmer’s abilities, mentally and physically, with the average swimmer usually taking 3.5 hours to complete the course. But this year, with the virtual swim, swimmers can swim 2km or 10km at their own pace. 

Organisers say whether a person experiences cancer as a ‘battle’ or a reluctant ‘journey’, one must find the guts and grit to take it on, one stroke at a time. "The 10k swim is tough, arduous, painful and long but the difference is that the swimmer's struggle is over in a matter of hours. 

“Like this demanding and challenging swim, the cancer journey is a grueling, painful, and exhausting experience that brings a host of thoughts and emotions including fear, apprehension, doubt, frustration, struggle, hope, discovery and for many gratitude, relief and recovery. Both journeys are slow and deliberate, with the companionship and support of family and friends as central to the experience”.

On August 14, the event will start from Parkes Castle in Leitrim and end at Sligo’s Doorly Park. Registration for this year’s Lough Gill Hospice 2km and 10km Virtual Swim is open. 

See here: com/new/events/75505333/forms? _p=96401145845919

 Those who wish to participate can also contact the team on Facebook or Instagram @ loughgillhospiceswim where updates on training and fundraising can be found.

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