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Local lad’s swimming challenge inspires others to jump into the pool for charity

David Withers, Ciaran Hanks, Stephanie Millward and Andy Jarrett.

THE story of a Melksham lad who is currently in the middle of his second epic charity swimming challenge has been inspiring others to dive into the pool themselves and raise money for charity.

Last year local boy Ciaran Hanks, aged 11, raised more than £700 for Wiltshire Air Ambulance by swimming the width of the English Channel – 35.18km – over three months in local swimming pools.

Inspired by Ciaran’s story, other people have been taking up the English Channel challenge and raising money for charity. David Withers, who works for the fundraising team for Cornwall Air Ambulance, heard about Ciaran through his friend, Paralympic gold medalist Stephanie Millward, who joined Ciaran for the finale of his challenge last year.

“Ciaran is so special,” said David. “After hearing about Ciaran through Steph,  I followed his story on Facebook. Soon after, I started working for Cornwall Air Ambulance and I wanted to do something to raise money for them. Ciaran’s English Channel challenge felt like the perfect choice, so I asked Ciaran if I could copy him.

“I ended up raising £3,500. Two other people I know also went on to do the same challenge, inspired by Ciaran. So his challenge and his story has had a domino effect.

“He really doesn’t know how special he is. He’s an amazing young boy.”

This year, Ciaran has embarked on a second challenge to raise money for the MS Society, aiming to swim the equivalent length of Loch Ness – 36.33km -by Christmas Day, which is a monster 1,454 lengths of a 25m pool.

To show their support, David, Stephanie and Andy Jarrett from the MS Society joined him in the pool for a few lengths at Trowbridge Sports Centre.

Ciaran’s choice to raise money for the MS Society is intended as a thank you to Paralympian Stephanie Millward, who has MS and supported him last year during his first challenge.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing and so inspiring for someone to take on such a distance and for the second time too,” said Stephanie. “Hopefully some more people will be inspired by what he has done and do a swim for themselves.

“It’s very kind for him to chose the MS Society, it’s so nice how he can bend over backwards to help me, when all I did was swim a couple of lengths with him. He’s very kind, what a lovely guy!”

Andy Jarrett from the MS Society said, “It’s brilliant and so inspirational to see young people using their time in such a constructive way involving so many different aspects of the community. We are really grateful that Ciaran is helping to raise awareness of what MS is.”

Ciaran, who started secondary school last week, said, “The challenge is going good, so far I’ve done over 16km of the 36.33km target.

“I am really enjoying it. At the end of each session I get out of the pool and I feel like I have achieved something.

“I hope people donate as much as they can to the MS Society.”

You can follow Ciaran’s progress in the pool on his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CiaransLoch NessAdventure. To donate, visit www.justgiving .com/fundraising/lochness adventure