Father Christmas ditched the reindeer and swapped his sleigh for a pair of flippers and some scuba gear – at least that’s what it looked like when divers at an inland dive site in Somerset took the plunge to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on Sunday 20 December.
Over 150 divers, including a group from Billericay, Essex, gathered at Vobster Quay near Frome to attempt a world record for the greatest number of simultaneous scuba diving Santas. The underwater challenge aims to raise money for the RNLIâ€™s biggest annual fundraising day, SOS Day on Friday 29 January 2010 and will be spent on crew training.
Gareth Lock was one of the158 divers who donned Father Christmas costumes and braved sub-zero temperatures to take part in the event. He said: â€˜It was an amazing sight to see nearly 160 divers dressed in Santa costumes getting ready to jump into freezing water to raise money for the RNLI.â€™
Gareth said the event had already raised Â£658 from the raffle and the group looked set to meet their target of Â£5000 for the RNLI once all the donations were counted. One dive club, Phoenix Divers from Billericay, Essex, raised Â£2000 alone and more donations are coming in via the JustGiving website. If the divers do reach their target, Vobster Quay will donate a further Â£1000 to the charity that saves lives at sea.
Over the last three years the festive gathering has gathered momentum. In 2007 eight Santas, a Viking, a snowman, and a fairy all came together to raise money for the RNLI and last year was even bigger with 84 scuba diving Santas.
Lloyd Watkin of the Yorkshire Divers Group who led the challenge said: â€˜Weâ€™ve been raising money for the RNLI for a number of years. The lifesaving work the volunteer crews do every day of the year is just amazing and as scuba divers we will never know when we might need to call upon them ourselves.â€™
Frances Warren, RNLI Area Fundraising Manager for Bristol, Gloucester, North Somerset and Wiltshire said: â€˜Traditionally fundraising events for SOS Day take their inspiration from the SOS acronym. Last year in the south west, RNLI supporters invited people to Sup Our Soup, Scoff Our Scones and Sample Our Savouries. Away from the food theme, Stroll On Sundays were organised; SOS quizzes were held and supermarkets arranged SOS collections.
â€˜However this is a truly unique event and is sure to capture peopleâ€™s imagination. Our volunteer lifeboat crews and lifeguards are ready to go to sea at a momentâ€™s notice to aid people in distress but our vital maritime emergency service is funded entirely through public donations and legacies. SOS Day, the RNLIâ€™s biggest annual fundraising day helps ensure we can keep that service running.â€™
The RNLIâ€™s SOS Day website (www.rnli.org.uk/sos) is packed with fundraising ideas and links to an events calendar, photographs from previous SOS Day events and fundraising materials, among others.
Notes to Editors
- Photo captions:
- Scuba Santas 1 â€“ Divers from the Phoenix Divers get in the festive mood to raise money for the RNLI (please credit Gareth Lock).
- Scuba Santas 2 â€“ Cold temperatures didnâ€™t deter divers (from left to right) Debby Richardson, Barrie Witterick and Vicky Rothwell from Phoenix Divers raising money for the RNLI (please credit Jason Brown).
- Scuba Santas 3 â€“ Divers in Father Christmas costumes get ready to take the plunge to raise money for the RNLI (please credit Jason Brown).
- Details of how people can donate are on the Scuba Santasâ€™ website www.scuba-santas.co.uk.
- Next yearâ€™s Scuba Santa event is already planned for Sunday 19 December 2010.