Siblings take the plunge with Solent swim in memory of their brother

ON DRY LAND Michael and Claire Stafford with their parents Peter and Angela after completing their Solent swim.    Picture: Steve Reid (12008-187)
ON DRY LAND Michael and Claire Stafford with their parents Peter and Angela after completing their Solent swim. Picture: Steve Reid (12008-187)
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SIBLINGS braved the cold to swim to the Isle of Wight and back in memory of their toddler brother.

Michael and Claire Stafford raised £600 for charity yesterday by swimming the 11 miles from Southsea to Ryde and back again in just three hours and 45 minutes.

BROTHER Benji Stafford

BROTHER Benji Stafford

The pair – who have been in training since May – took on the challenge in memory of their brother Benji who died from children’s cancer neuroblastoma in 1988 at the age of four.

All the money raised from the event will be donated to Wessex Cancer Trust which provided support for Benji while he was ill.

After completing the swim Claire, 22, of Elizabeth Gardens, Southsea, said: ‘It feels great to have done it but I’m glad it’s over.

‘It got really choppy towards the Isle of Wight which made it much harder, and we had to stop at one point and tread water to let a big cargo ship go by which was funny.

‘But it was really nice on the way back when we started to see the landmarks of Southsea and knew we were almost home. My arms are aching now but it’s great to have done it.’

The pair also collected £500 in donations outside Sainsbury’s in Farlington earlier this month – £100 of which was donated directly from the store.

Their mum Angela, dad Peter and brother Mark have organised small events in aid of the cancer charity in the past, such as selling Christmas cards and running a lunch event, but this is the biggest fundraiser anyone in the family has organised.

Firefighter Michael, 34, of Chitty Road, Southsea, said: ‘We weren’t sure if we were going to get to do it because of the weather so I’m relieved that we made it out.

‘It was a big challenge but I remember what it was like when my brother was being treated for cancer and it was hard – we just wanted to do what we could to help other families going through the same thing.’

Benji was only three when he was diagnosed with advanced stages of neuroblastoma. At the time the family needed to go to Southampton for the trust’s services, but this money will help set up centres for patients in Portsmouth.

Sally Hall, chief executive of the trust, said: ‘It’s an amazing challenge these guys set themselves and it’s a massive achievement that they made it. We’re so glad they decided to it for the Wessex Cancer Trust.’