THE dad of a boy who died from cancer led a 22-strong group of swimmers across the Solent.
Ex-Pompey player Dave Waterman, 37, of Gosport, was among the group who finished the Stokes Bay to Isle of Wight swim in two-and-a-half hours.
He said: ‘It was the perfect day – it must have been Oakley looking down and making it as easy as he could for us.
‘Everyone dug in and helped each other through.
‘The kayakers and Rib support teams helped us throughout.
‘The community getting behind us and supporting us was just fantastic.’
They were raising cash for the Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation – set up after Dave and his wife Lorraine’s son Oakley died aged six in 2005.
He had a rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma.
His parents set up the foundation as Oakley had enjoyed a caravan trip and his wish was for other ill children and their families to enjoy similar holidays.
The foundation marks 10 years in 2015 and is hoping to raise £70,000 to buy a new holiday home.
Donations have brought the swimmers’ total to £10,000.
A fleet of kayaks followed the swimmers on their almost-four-mile challenge to Ryde Sands when they set off at just after 8.45am yesterday.
Jim Adkins, of Avery Lane, Gosport, said he could not even swim two lengths of a swimming pool when he signed up.
And during training a physiotherapist discovered the 39-year-old’s neck was out of place after a car crash.
He said: ‘It’s a great group of people and friends they’ve got behind them – I really wanted to be part of it.
‘I’ve been training for seven months, I couldn’t even swim two lengths of the swimming pool before.’
Around 50 people had turned out to watch the 22 swimmers start, with about 100 people on Gosport Ferry’s Spirit of Portsmouth watching at sea.
Harold Luff, 75, from Stubbington, was among the crowd on the shore watching.
He said: ‘It’s brilliant that people are giving up all their time to do it. It takes a lot of organisation to get it done like this.’
It comes after an all-women group got on their bikes for a 150-mile challenge last month and raised around £20,000 for the foundation.
For more and to donate see theoakleywatermancaravanfoundation.org