Rescued Wirral walker backs RNLI Xmas appeal as charity reveals Covid-19 impact

Lifeboats News Release

As the RNLI reveals it has lost millions due to the pandemic, Wendy Ward says she could have been facing a very different Christmas this year had it not been for West Kirby RNLI.

Wendy is now urging the people of the North West to support the charity’s fundraising drive, to show their appreciation for those who came to her aid when she and her dog became stranded on rocks, engulfed by a flooding spring tide.

Wendy was one of a group of eight who got into difficulty whilst enjoying a walk out to the Wirral’s three uninhabited tidal islands. They included Wendy and her spaniel called Ruby from West Kirby, a couple from Liverpool, and a family of five on holiday from Brazil. Those needing urgent help included a five-year-old child neck-deep in water in her father’s arms. Wendy, who was the only one with a working mobile which hadn’t become sub-merged reached for her phone and dialled 999 and asked for the Coastguard.

Wendy said:

‘We’re so grateful to every single person involved. I went out to the islands to banish some childhood memories of slipping on the rocks. The same rocks that helped to keep us all above the water. I was shocked at the speed and depth of the water surrounding us. I didn’t come away with quite the new memories I wanted, but I will never forget all the lifeboat volunteers who helped us that day. I don’t know what we would’ve done without them.’

This year Wendy will be celebrating Christmas at home with her family but says things could have been very different.

‘I often think about the rescue and how things could have turned out very differently that afternoon. With Christmas coming up, it’s at the front of my mind that little bit more just now. This year more than ever, you realise how important family is and I’m so grateful to be here along with the others rescued that day

‘I know it’s been a hard year for the RNLI and it’s more important than ever that people support the crews and give what they can so they can carry on doing what they do best.’

The lifesaving charity had to spend £1.2M this year to ensure its volunteer lifeboat crews and beach lifeguards had the vital PPE, such as face masks and gloves, to keep our lifesavers safe. This was money the charity hadn’t planned to spend, at a time when RNLI shops were forced to close and fundraising events were cancelled.

Events across the North West, such as open days, marathons and festive dips have had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions. In addition, volunteer-run RNLI shops been closed for the majority of the year.

Fundraisers have been thinking up innovative ways to continue supporting the RNLI crews in line with government guidance. The charity’s annual Reindeer Runs which see herds of supporters donning antlers and taking on a fun festive run has been adapted this year. The charity is calling on people to run the event virtually on Saturday 12 or Sunday 13 December and donate to the RNLI. More information is available here:

Festive dips have also gone virtual and supporters are being invited to take a dip in the comfort of their own homes and make a donation to the lifesaving charity. More information is here:

The popular Leg It for Lytham 5K fun run took on a new twist this year with participants running between Lytham’s two boathouses solo at a time convenient to them. The new event exceeded all expectations, raising a staggering £11,000.

Ryan Preece, Community Manager for the North West says:

‘We were devastated to have to cancel our fundraising events, especially as it’s such a good opportunity to meet our local supporters. We’ve had a very challenging summer, rescuing those in difficulty in the midst of a pandemic and with foreign holidays being cancelled, we’ve received more visitors to our local beaches.

Throughout the pandemic, the RNLI crews across the North West from Silloth to West Kirby have been ready to answer the pager and rescue those in difficulty. It has also been an exceptionally busy year for RNLI lifeguards on the Wirral and in Sefton. RNLI lifeguards will continue to operate from Crosby 365 days a year – including Christmas Day.

Additional PPE and adapting to coronavirus restrictions has been challenging for the volunteer crew members and lifeguards across Wales. For 2020, the RNLI have purchased in 6.7 million units of coronavirus PPE including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and just under 5,000 litres of hand sanitiser.

RNLI lifesavers continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep people safe as lockdown restrictions eased and people flocked to the coast. As a charity, the RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives – and that support is needed now more than ever.

Help us brave a wave we never expected. To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

Read more advice for walking safely at the coast, including how to avoid getting cut off by the tide.

-END-

Notes to Editors

Interview are available on request.

For more information please contact Danielle Rush, Regional Media Manager in Wales and the West on 07786 668829 or Danielle_rush@rnli.org.uk

David Edwards

Wendy holding her dog Ruby with West Kirby Crew Member Tom Clarke standing in front of the lifeboat station’s launching tractor - a Hägglunds Bandvagn (BV) 206

RNLI/Gregg Wolstenholme

Lytham RNLI thank the community for supporting its fundraising event during the pandemic

David Edwards

West Kirby Crew Member Adie Gregan, who was involved in Wendy's rescue, wearing a face mask and gloves and giving a thumbs up from the station’s launching vehicle

RNLI/Danielle Rush

This Christmas will be business as usual for RNLI lifeguards on Crosby beach

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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