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Third annual Chilli Dip

Patron and former EastEnders star Cheryl Fergison led the crowd in their applause as dippers took it in turns to plunge into the icy outdoor pool, and swim as many lengths as they could manage.

The arctic conditions failed to give youngest challenger 13-year-old Natasha Hamilton-Walker from West Malling cold feet as she completed six shivering widths.

The Tonbridge Grammar School pupil, who swims for Sevenoaks Swimming Club, said: “It was a lot colder than I expected it to be which makes it more difficult to swim. I would love to take part again next year as it is for such a good cause.”

Also joining Natasha in the pool was 65-year-old grandmother Ros Driver from Gravesend, who was cheered on by her proud family.

Ros, who has raised over £400 said: “I was shocked by how cold it was when I first got in but I managed to swim a width. I’ve only ever received two medals in my life so it was a proud moment to get one for the Chilli Dip. It’s also rewarding knowing the money raised will help to fund care for very poorly children.”

Ambassador Gill Chadbon from Tunbridge Wells returned to the icy depths for a second year raising over £200, despite describing the challenge like “swimming through glass” when she took part in 2014. Several members of the Sevenoaks Sharks Waterpolo Team, who have raised more than £2000 in sponsorship, also returned to make a splash.

Following their icy plunge, challengers were rewarded with a bowl of steaming hot chilli and rice to help them thaw out and enjoyed entertainment from Keith Lemon look-a-like DJ Tony Durrant.

They were also warmed by the knowledge they had collectively raised £5000 for a worthwhile local charity, that supports hundreds of families facing terminal illness every year.

Patron Cheryl Fergison said: “I was so impressed with everyone who turned out to support the event and my hat goes off to the brave Chilli Dippers. The care ellenor provides is vital and it can only continue with the support of the generous community. The money raised from Chilli Dip will enable ellenor to care for even more families facing terminal illness so it is a great achievement. I encourage all to take part in more ellenor fundraising events in 2015 as they are all fantastic.” 


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Basia Wilson

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