Ex-lifeguard goes the extra mile to raise funds after beating cancer

Lifeguards News Release

Jake Woods, an ex-RNLI lifeguard, has undertaken a plethora of challenges in order to raise funds for the lifesaving charity.

A man in a pink shirt sits in a bicycle wheelchair on an athletics track.

RNLI/Derry Salter

Jake Woods preparing to undertake his challenges

After Jake was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at the age of 27, an aggressive rare bone cancer, in his right hip, his life changed drastically. Over 12 months of grueling chemotherapy left Jake in less than 1% of the amputee population, with the amputation of his right leg and half of his pelvis.

Prior to Jake’s diagnosis, he was an RNLI lifeguard for eight years, spending his summers saving lives in between South Tyneside and Sunderland. The integral part of the RNLI team also competed in various triathlons, swimming events and half-marathons across the years.

Clearly an immensely active person before his diagnosis, Jake did not let his determination falter and set his sights to compete in the Paris 2024 Paralympics. Soon after, his fundraising idea was born.

Jake put together a list of strenuous activities such as hill climbs, swims, and Tough Mudders all to raise money for the RNLI; half of the proceeds will go to the lifesaving charity with the other half contributing to his para-sports equipment costs. These challenges alone are difficult – doing them with one leg is astounding.

Jake’s incredible work for the RNLI compelled many lifeguards to support him on his journey. On Thursday 29 July, he will swim from South Shields pier to Marsden Grotto, a challenging three mile swim, even for a lifeguard, supported by various members of the RNLI team.

Jake reflected on the importance of the charity and why he is undertaking the challenges:

'Having been a lifeguard for eight years, I know first-hand the importance of the RNLI’s work. I don't think I'd be the person I am now if it wasn't for the experiences and opportunities I had with the RNLI.

'The RNLI and its lifeguard service are a valuable asset to the communities they serve and it's important that they are funded to continue this work. I really want to give something back to a charity close to my heart and I am immensely appreciative of my ex-colleagues who'll be keeping me safe during my swim.’

His lifeguard counterparts down South in Hastings are also rallying behind the determined ex-lifeguard as they plan to hold their own sea swim fundraiser at the same time.

Joe Mitchell, an RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager in Hastings, organised the fundraiser for his good friend:

‘I first met Jake 10 years ago working as an RNLI Lifeguard in the North East of England. Despite us moving to opposite ends of the UK, we remain good friends.

'I am immensely proud of Jake and the other lifeguards in the East Sussex area. Despite never meeting Jake, they have rallied together to join me on this swim. It just shows how we are one big family and is a good way to mark the 20th anniversary of the RNLI Lifeguard Service.’

If you wish to donate to Jake’s fundraiser for the RNLI, please visit: https://gofund.me/e921a05b or https://gofund.me/99b73586

A man with an amputated leg stands on the beach with crutches next to a woman in a bathing suit.

RNLI/Derry Salter

Jake on the beach after a swim preparing for his fundraiser

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 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and 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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Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.