By Saoirse Higgins
For the past 30 years, wide-eyed, cold, and brave Galwegians have gathered at the winter shores of Salthill for an annual Christmas swim in aid of COPE Galway.
However, this year things will run differently.
Like many other organisations, COPE Galway have had to adapt to the new reality under Covid-19. A charity who provides support for the homeless, domestic abuse victims and the elderly, they have had to change the way they raise their funds.
The annual swim on Christmas day is one of the biggest fundraisers for COPE Galway with it raising almost €50,000 last year and with half of that from bucket collections on the day. However, this year with many people not able to leave their hometowns they have launched a #swimwhereyouare Christmas event.
This event is a creative way to have people still involved in the Christmas swim without breaching Covid-19 restrictions. Community fundraiser, Lynia O’ Brien explains;
“We’re asking Galwegians at home and abroad to register online at www.COPEgalway.ie/swim and we’ll post out a t-shirt. You can swim at your nearest beach and post a photo on social media of you braving the cold winter waters”.
The event will run for 10 days between the 21st and 30th of December. They’re hoping as many people as possible will attend. Even if you don’t want to face the chilly waters, you can still help out by sponsoring a swimmer.
Presenter of Rugbaí Beo on TG4 and COPE Galway board member, Máire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill will be one of the brave swimmers bracing the water for the event. She commented, “I’m very excited that 2020 isn’t going to rob me of the traditional Christmas swim! It’s one of my Christmas highlights and it’s amazing that we can all join together and support this fantastic cause from wherever we are”.
All funds raised from this event will go towards COPE Galway and the work that they do. In 2019, COPE Galway worked to help 2,984 people in Galway. This includes homeless families, women and children experiencing domestic abuse and also served 61,016 meals to older clients and services and Galway. Their work is vital to the community in Galway.
Although COPE Galway are disappointed that the normal way they do things can’t go ahead, they’re glad they’ve found at least some ways to keep the Christmas swim tradition alive,
“Although we can’t be together in Salthill on the day, shaking a bucket and handing out warm cups of tea, we are giving everyone an opportunity to continue their Christmas Swim tradition”.
Community is at the heart of the work that COPE Galway do, and they hope this event is way for people to stay connected, “With so many people unable to travel home this Christmas, we are hoping that this is something families can do together to stay connected – even though they are apart.”