Tickle Swim for mental health grows in popularity

Fifteen swimmers braved the cold waters of the North Atlantic Wednesday, swimming across the Bell Island Tickle to raise awareness for mental health.
Swimmers and kayak escorts prepare for the 2015 Tickle Swim near Bell Island. (CBC)

Fifteen swimmers braved the cold waters of the North Atlantic Wednesday, swimming across the Bell Island Tickle to raise awareness for mental health.

The annual Tickle Swim is part of a campaign and fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association (CHMA). It involves swimmers splashing their way across the five kilometre stretch of water.

Despite the chilly temperatures and long distance, participants have grown from just seven swimmers in 2013 to 15 this year. 
The Tickle is the stretch of water between Bell Island and the north east Avalon. (Google Maps)

Sheilagh O'Leary took part in this year's swim, and while she didn't make it all the way, she has a whole new appreciation for those who gave it a try.

Sheilagh O'Leary said the CHMA-NL is still accepting donations for the Tickle Swim fundraiser until Sept. 1. (CBC)

"It's no small feat to get out there and battle your fears in that water," she said.

"I myself, had some major issues out there. I had some sea sickness and got sick part of the way through."

She said the CHMA will continue accepting donations for the fundraiser until September, and the group is hoping to hit a $20,000 goal.

O'Leary said she expects that the event will continue growing in the years ahead.

"Next year, I know that there will be more swimmers coming on," she said.

"For people who are into competitive swimming, this is a real draw for them as well."

Peter Gregory and Dayna Hogan, two former members of Memorial University of Newfoundland's swimming team, also took part in the Tickle Swim.

"This was our first one in the ocean," said Hogan.

"It wasn't that hard, just cold and the waves were a bit rough."

Gregory said he was able to turn his fears into a motivator.

"I was kind of afraid of sharks, looking down," he joked.

"But it kind of makes you kick faster when you're afraid of sharks."

A swimmer makes an attempt to get across the five-kilometre stretch of water on Wednesday. (CBC)


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