Words by Smiley Team
Of all the challenges you could take on for charity, braving the freezing waters of an English lake in the wintertime is possibly among the most ambitious. But Jule Harries from Beare Green, Surrey, wanted to do just that.
In May 2021, Jule took up open water swimming - an invigorating pursuit, especially in the winter waters of Surrey, but one with great health benefits that include warding off dementia.
Realising the effort she was going to with her newfound hobby, Jule decided to combine it with fundraising for a good cause. So she decided to challenge herself publicly to do 100 open water swims. But as if that wasn’t enough, she wanted to do it in a range of weird and wonderful hats.
Kicking off with a vintage tin helmet for Remembrance Sunday, she has progressed through a variety of festive Christmas hats, to an incredible pancake flipping hat for Shrove Tuesday.
Jule currently works in a school where a number of pupils are registered as young carers. So it seemed appropriate to support a local charity dedicated to supporting them, Surrey Young Carers, a part of Action for Carers.
“The charity provides support and advice to these youngsters and gives them opportunities to meet others in similar situations, share their experiences, and take time out from their caring role,” Jule says.
Additionally, she wanted to give part of the money raised to a charity tackling dementia, Alzheimer's Research UK, whose cause is also close to her heart.
She explains: “I have seen firsthand the devastating impact of dementia and have also worked as a research scientist, so I know how important their work is in finding a cure for this horrible disease.”
As the temperature drops both in and out of the lake, each swim is becoming increasingly more challenging, but Jule is enjoying the support and encouragement of her fellow swimmers and the safety team.
She says: “This is a very happy challenge, which brings a smile to people’s faces, and I always feel very glad when I’ve completed my swim… even if I didn’t feel like getting into the freezing water beforehand!
“That’s not the only challenge though: deciding on a hat, sourcing it or making it, and then trying to safely swim with it when it might be heavy, bulky, wobbly, or all three, is part of the test…and part of the fun.”
SUPPORT: To follow Jule’s progress, see her latest hat and help build support for her fundraiser, visit her Instagram page @Jule.Harries and don’t forget to share!
DONATE: Support Alzheimer’s Research UK and Action for Carers by sponsoring Jule.