Why my kids plunged into the Thames on New Year’s Day

The madness of the Crisis Icebreaker Challenge

Jan 29, 2020 | Heather Beresford

Leaping into the freezing Thames for the Crisis Icebreaker challenge seemed a fine idea back in December. Sitting at my desk in the snuggly warmth of our Seacourt offices, I imagined hilarity as friends and family leapt into the Thames on Jan 1st 2020.

It still seemed a brilliant idea when I ran it past Sarah Evershed from Crisis as we chatted in a toasty and warm Oxford restaurant before Christmas.

“Let’s face the freeze and bring warmth and hope to people facing homelessness this winter,” I cried to friends and family as my friend Jenny and I rallied a group of thrill-seekers. But then came New Year’s Day.

Our bravado dampened by a long night of celebrations, we trouped in virtual silence to Port Meadow in Oxford. Feet freezing on the icy ground we changed at speed, shaking with nerves and cold. Taking a lead from experienced winter swimmers, I kept my bobble hat on. “Why, oh why did we suggest this?” I wondered.

But then the kids charged in and the adults raced in after them, running, diving and jumping into the icy depths. The air filled with high-pitched screams and hysterical laughter. Dogs went nuts, sprinting and barking around the assembled crowd. The sun came out, hot chocolate at the pub beckoned and suddenly it seemed the best idea ever. Cash donations were shoved in a bucket, grandparents sponsored the fearless kids, donations were made online and together we raised £90.50.


Tackling homelessness

Hundreds of people nationwide took part in the annual Crisis Icebreaker challenge, raising more than £10,000. All proceeds have gone towards Crisis’ Christmas campaign, as well as the charity’s year-round services which help people to leave homelessness behind for good.

Every day, I write about rising levels of homelessness across Britain and it’s appalling to see so many people sleeping rough on the streets in Oxford. My children have never been able to fathom why some people are left to sit on the pavement, and they desperately want to help. And that’s the main reason I organised the challenge – to show our local community of kids that if you want to do something about vital causes, there’s always action you can take. But I must remember to tell them a bone-aching, teeth-chattering dip isn’t the only option.

Want to take a dip?

If you’re interested in taking a dip, the last Icebreaker Challenge took place this week, but there’s always next year!

Heather Beresford
senior copywriter and founder of the Stairs Challenge.
29th January 2020

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