The Bensham Belles take on Great River Race

06 September 2017

The Bensham Belles have taken on the amazing challenge of the Great River Race on 9 September. They will be rowing 21.6 miles down the Thames in aid of raising money for Evelina London.

The Bensham Belles work in a special educational needs (SEN) secondary school called Bensham Manor.

The team’s collective motivation for doing this challenge is to try something completely different, new and exciting. Jo Mitchell (Jo M), who is part of the Bensham Belles, said: ‘It is such an amazing opportunity to take on a challenge with a bunch of lovely people, rowing up the Thames (all be it 21.6 miles!) and we all feel that it is also rather fitting that we will be rowing past Evelina London, which is a place that touches our hearts.’

They couldn’t have taken part without the help of their assistant head teacher, Robin Barwick, who has been their personal and very patient trainer, and Simon Hall from the Worshipful Company of Scientific Instrument Makers. Simon very generously allowed the use of their cutter boat in addition to paying their entry fee, which means that all money raised will go to charity. 

The team is doing the race in memory of Rio (Jo W’s son) and Scarlett (Sarah’s daughter), whom Evelina London worked immensely hard to save. In 2013, Rio, at seven years old, contracted Meningococcal Septicaemia. Evelina London fought very hard to save him, but sadly he passed away. Scarlett was born in 2010 with an undetected congenital heart defect, which Evelina London picked up when she was 10 days old. She underwent two heart operations which were unsuccessful. Sadly, Scarlett passed away a day before she would have been one month old. Both Jo W and Sarah have said: ‘The care and support was second to none and will always be cherished.’

Evelina London have also helped Leila, who was born with a cleft palate back in 2010. She had an operation which was a complete success, with no long-lasting side effects. Also in 2013, Michael, who was only three at the time, had a kidney transplant (his father being the donor); he experienced severe complications after his operation, which meant that he had to stay at Evelina London for around four weeks, and not 10 days as originally planned.

Jo M says: ‘We are privileged to get this opportunity to row and raise as much as possible for Evelina London. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for everything that they have done and continue to do.’

You can sponsor the Bensham Belles here 

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