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Winter Swim Challenge 'dives deep' for grief support

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Kenzie’s Gift, a charity dedicated to supporting the mental health of children and families affected by serious illness or grief, has opened its second annual Winter Swim Challenge.

The swim challenge encourages Kiwis to take the plunge, in spite of the cold, and fundraise for the continuation of essential mental health prevention services for young children and their families affected by loss and grief.

When Nic Russell, founder of Kenzie’s Gift, experienced the loss of her own young daughter Mackenzie Eireann 17 years ago, she found that the support she needed wasn’t easily accessible to her and her family, including her young son.

The Winter Swim Challenge gives everyday New Zealanders an opportunity to help tackle this challenge, which is prevalent in communities today. It is estimated that one child in every 20 will be affected by the death of a loved one by the age of 18.

"Our vision is to ensure no one faces serious illness or grief alone," says Nic, who initially started her own swim challenge in 2020, where she swam in the ocean for 30 days straight throughout winter.

"This year, we want to get even more people swimming and raising valuable funds for Kenzie’s Gift. Set whatever Winter Swim Challenge works for you; a go big dip, a weekend warrior or become a daily dipper. All funds go towards providing one on one therapy with registered mental health professionals, grief kits and an extensive online resource library," she says.

For young people and families alike, the impact of facing loss or serious illness can be intense, emotionally traumatic and long-lasting.

The intervention of clinically proven therapies at this difficult time can give them the tools and coping mechanisms they need to deal with the fear, anxiety, grief and loss experienced when they, their siblings, or a parent are diagnosed with cancer or serious illness, or there is a bereavement within the whānau.

Sarah Luxon whose daughter Mackenzie died unexpectedly at 13 days old, just over four years ago participated in the challenge last year. "I know that we would have benefited from the kind of support that Kenzie’s Gift provides, and I wanted to give other families the opportunity for support if they were going through a similar situation," she says.

Swimming in winter

The idea of swimming during winter might give you the chills, but there are many benefits of cold-water swimming that support your mental and physical health. Mentally, it's great at helping you deal with stress as it floods your body with endorphins, brightening your mood. Physically, it boosts your immune system, improves your circulation and can even lower your blood pressure.

The Winter Swim Challenge runs from 1 June through to 31 August. Prizes up for grabs include a Queenstown adventure by JUICY and products from ORCA New Zealand, Torpedo7 and Noxen.

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