Holiday 2013 153Regular visitors will remember that a few months ago we launched the Challenge Yourself initiative, inviting you – our followers – to conjure up your own wacky ideas for putting yourselves to the test to raise money for Seeing is Believing.

Over the coming weeks and months we will be showcasing some of the fabulous efforts that the most adventurous among you have been making – starting today with the remarkable Avril Evitts.

Earlier this month, Avril braved the chilly sea to take part in a sponsored swim around Burgh Island off the Devonshire coast, England – completing the course in a very respectable one hour flat. The swim is mean to be 2km, but Avril and the other swimmers missed the tide and ended up having to swim closer to 4km! The open water swim required three months of training and mental preparation for the cool water, currents, waves and tides – but what makes Avril’s feat all the more remarkable is that she herself is visually impaired.

Avril was born with acute myopia and developed Stagadts Disease in her early 40s. Her sight deteriorated rapidly after that and a consultant registered her as partially sighted, having initially tried to register her as blind. She had to leave her job immediately and she was left feeling desperate. It was not until a local optician noticed she was developing cataracts that her luck began to change. She had an operation to remove both cataracts and had intraocular lenses fitted to maximise what was left of her central vision. Although Avril is still visually impaired, with no sight in her left eye and “dodgy” central vision, as she puts it, the operation was a liberation and allowed her to enjoy life again and go back to work to make a living.

Avril had set out to raise £200 from her swim – but has already gathered in nearly £380 with promises of more money to follow. After match-funding from Standard Chartered she will have raised nearly £760 and more with Gift Aid. A terrific effort!

“I am delighted that I have managed to raise funds for Seeing is Believing, and to raise the profiles of both the charity and The Coldest Journey,” she said.

“As I finished the swim I got a bit emotional because I know how the people having the operations I have raised funds for are going to feel – amazed and liberated.

“I still can’t believe how such a simple operation can change a life, and I wouldn’t believe it if I couldn’t see it.”

Avril has been invited by her local radio station to share her story live on air, further promoting The Coldest Journey – but more importantly, Seeing is Believing.

“I loved doing the swim,” continued Avril. “Believe it or not, it was the inspiration for me to shed two stone to get into a wet suit. Now I am a woman on a mission, to shed further weight and get into a swimskin for an open water swim next year (probably Lake Windermere).

“I’ll swim for Seeing is Believing again. This time I will make sure I am closer to the support team, as during this last swim I lost sight of them around Burgh Island and went way off course. Thankfully the support rib spotted me and guided me back to the pack.”

Avril has been an avid supporter of The Coldest Journey since the beginning and was delighted that the Ice Team were able to start the journey home at long last, despite its many “perils and pitfalls”.

She posted on Facebook last night: “Never thought I would be excited to hear that someone had travelled 2k. Hope all goes well tomorrow.” Just the kind of support our guys on the ice want to hear.

Thanks for everything Avril, we think you are amazing!


If you would like to sponsor Avril for her amazing effort, you can do so at