NI Boys In Bid To Help Others Visit Santa

Two 10 year-olds with disabilities are swimming the length of the English channel to raise money to help make other children's Christmas dreams come true.

Co L'Derry heroes Oliver Dickey and Ethan Pollock are nearing the end of their quest to swim 1400 lengths, the equivalent of 21 miles, for a charity that sends children living with life limiting conditions to Santa Park in Roveniemi, Finland.

The determined pair are no strangers to a challenge, as Oliver lives with cerebral palsy and Ethan with spina bifida.

After initially setting out to raise £1000, the Coleraine schoolboys received an early Christmas present when Ballyclare homebuilder Hagan Homes offered to double whatever funds they raise. They are now set to complete their challenge this evening, Wednesday 27 November, with the support of their coach Sindy Stewart.

The boys are relying on the inspiration from their own experiences with the charity to help them reach the finish line. Over 100 children will then be gifted the magical experience of a trip to Lapland on 17 December.

Ethan said: "I would like other children to experience what we have."

Oliver added: "I'm happy that we have will be able to make other sick boys and girls and their families happy!"

Speaking about Hagan Homes offer to double the funds, Oliver's mum Charlene said: "There are no words to express our gratitude at such a gesture! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, thank you, thank you! Jim Burke, you are an angel in disguise."

She added: "The boys are both naturals in the water and it's somewhere where they are the same as everyone else. You watch them in the pool, and you would have no idea that they have problems in their mobility."

Swimming coach Sindy Stewart said the endeavour is no mean feat.
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"Swimming 21 miles even in instalments, over six months, is a daunting prospect," she explained. "But, when you are living with limited mobility from the waist down, the task becomes almost superhuman. The boys had previously travelled with the charity on their annual trip to Lapland and wanted other children to have the same magical experience."

The pair also walked the distance between NI and Scotland on a recent fundraising ferry ride using canes and a wheelchair.

Jim Burke of Hagan Homes said: "The Northern Ireland Children to Lapland Trust is an incredible organisation. It completed its eighth year of its Walk to Scotland fundraiser recently onboard Stena Line and when we saw that Oliver and Ethan were part of that as well as undertaking their very own challenge for the charity we were moved and honoured to offer our support."

Chair of the charity Colin Barkley said the efforts of people like Ethan and Oliver can help give more children the gift of a visit to Lapland.

"The simple fact is that the more money we raise, the more children we can help," he said. "We started with a 140-seater aircraft when we launched the charity ten years ago and in December will make the trip to Finland in a plane that can hold 220 passengers. We want to keep increasing that number.

"We are extremely grateful to Oliver and Ethan for the hard work they’ve put in on their own mission to allow children to experience the magic of the Lapland trip and when Hagan Homes came on board to double the funds they raised it means their hard efforts will go towards fulfilling the dreams of even more children here. We wish the boys all the very best with their last lengths of the trip and would encourage everyone to come out and support them on Wednesday evening. They are a true inspiration."

Visit the Just Giving page to help boost Oliver and Ethan's efforts.

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