Students from Elsley School and Ernest Bevin College (South West London) had a unique opportunity to meet the Secretary of State for Health, Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP on Thursday 4th March and to thank him for introducing the increasingly popular Swim4life initiative that provides under 16s across the UK with free swimming.
The Swim4life project was first launched in April 2009 by Mr Burnham (then Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport) and saw over a thousand local pools signing up to the scheme that offers free swimming to people aged 60 and over and 16 and under – giving 20 million people the chance to take part in an activity that they might otherwise not have had access to.
And, to demonstrate his beliefs in the benefits of swimming – as well as his continued commitment to the charity, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) in its 15th Anniversary year – Andy Burnham has also agreed to take part in the Great North Swim (swimming one mile across Lake Windermere) in exactly six months time on September 4th, pledging to raise money to help support the charity’s vital work and ongoing screening programme.
Mr Burnham first became involved with the charity in 2002 as a backbencher shortly after becoming an MP. He was one of the first members of the Cardiac Risk in the Young All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).
Three years later, when 16 year old Daniel Young from Atherton collapsed and died whilst playing football, Mr Burnham was invited by Daniel’s parents – Dionne and Craig – to attend a CRY cardiac testing event funded by donations from the community. Since then, he has openly pledged to help address the issue of sudden cardiac death in the young, which currently claims the lives of at least 12 apparently fit and healthy people, aged 35 and under, in the UK every week.
Mr Burnham adds: “I am all too aware of the terrible impact that sudden cardiac death has on families across the UK, particularly following the death of a talented and popular young footballer in my constituency. Therefore, I am delighted to be supporting CRY’s work through my swim in September and with the launch of the CRYSWIM2010 project.
“CRY has pushed cardiac risk in the young into the consciousness of government and through their screening programme, their centres for Inherited Cardiac Conditions, Sports Cardiology and Pathology which have shown us what can be done to reduce the risk of young sudden cardiac death.
“Everyone that supports this swim will know that they are making an important contribution to CRY’s work to reduce that statistic and in helping to develop their well established and ground-breaking screening programme and the vital research it yields.”
In addition to raising awareness of the Swim4Life initiative, CRYSWIM2010 will encourage young people across the UK to develop a greater understanding of CRY’s work and the importance of cardiac screening, whilst allowing them to have fun and keep fit whilst trying to raise funds for the charity.
For the first time ever, CRY is also offering free screening to 14 year olds born in the South East in 1995 (the year that CRY was founded).
CRY’s Chief Executive and Founder, Alison Cox MBE adds: “We are absolutely delighted that Andy Burnham is once again giving up his time to help support us in our ongoing mission to reduce the number of young lives lost needlessly to sudden cardiac death.
Andy Burnham and Alison Cox address students at Ernest Bevin College
“We’re very proud to endorse Andy’s initiative, which has transformed the lives of so many children, which has been particularly appreciated in many cities and deprived areas. By working together to encourage young people to take the plunge and “Swim 4 CRY”, we can really make a difference in our special 15th anniversary year.”
Schools and families across the UK – many of whom have tragically been affected by sudden cardiac death – will be organising “swims” between March and November to help raise funds for Andy Burnham’s swim.
There is no registration fee and the first 10,000 young people to register will receive a CRY 15th anniversary bracelet. The first 10,000 pupils whose class returns their fundraising will receive a CRY swim bag and drinks bottle.
As a thank you to Ernest Bevin College for their help with the launch, Alison and Andy also announced that CRY would offer free heart screening to all pupils aged 14+ at the school.