Cold Water Weekend in Derry in memory of Aodhán O’Donnell

Waves for Mental Health are organising a ‘Cold Water Weekend’ this Saturday, July 9 and Sunday, July 10 in memory of Aodhán O’Donnell, who would be 24 on Sunday.

Aodhán died by suicide four years ago and since then, his family have fundraised tirelessly for mental health charities and organisations in the city in Aodhán’s memory. They have raised over £100,000 through a range of fundraising events. Aodhán would have turned 24 on Sunday, July 10 so his mother, Moira O’Donnell has teamed up with Waves to hold a Cold Water Weekend to raise funds and promote positive mental wellbeing.

Moira said: “I go into the sea every weekend with Waves and I really love it. I find that once you go into the water, you leave everything else behind you and you feel calm. There’s some people who have been able to reduce the medications they’re on because the cold water really improves their wellbeing so much. The Waves community are great too, they’re all so supportive. We organised a charity run along the Quay recently in memory of Aodhán and people from Waves were there to support the cause too. Everyone just looks out for each other.

“We’re fundraising for Foyle Search and Rescue and Na Magha hurling club, the team Aodhán played for. They’re planning to build a new gym and they’re going to name it after Aodhán. That’s a lovely gesture in itself but a gym would help with the young people’s mental health too. The number 13 is very special to us because that’s the number Aodhán had on his Na Magha shirt, he was number 13. Aodhán went into the water on the 8th of July and we got him back on the 13th so it’s a number that always reminds us of him. We see that number everywhere now too, and we always think of him.

Waves for Mental Health will hold a Cold Water Weekend this Saturday and Sundau, 9-10 July at 11am in Ludden Beach. The fundraiser is organised by the family of Aodhán O'Donnell who died four years ago. It happen on Aodhán's Birthday, in aid of Foyle Search and Rescue and Na Magha Hurling Club's new gym, which will be named after Aodhán.

“I was contacted by the Wooden Brew Coffee who said they will hold a coffee morning with all proceeds going into the bucket. They were so happy to help and it’s just lovely to see people rallying around an helping out like that.

“Everyone is welcome to come and take part. I want to thank everyone for their support, too.”

Serena Terry, created the Waves group in January when she realised the benefits of cold water swimming but had no one to do it with. Waves then grew to a huge community group who support each other both in the swimming, yoga, running, walking and healthy eating groups, as well as outside of the arranged meet times.

Serena said: “Moira joined waves when it was in it’s infancy and it’s strange because there’s another lady who comes who has also lost her son to suicide so the group, I hope, is something that has helped her in her grief journey. We are a really close-knot community and we welcome newcomers every week. This weekend is to help Moira and her family in their fundraising efforts. Moira wants her waves family, her own family and Aodhán’s friends to come down and celebrate Aodhán’s birthday but also raise awareness of mental health issues. WE struggle to get males into the water so we’re hoping that a few of Aodhán’s friends and people his age will get into the water and hopefully find that it helps them too.

“We were all strangers before waves was set up and now we’re a family. We’re not just there for the scientific benefits of the cold water dipping or any holistic activities like yoga or the other cubs. The community and the support and the social side of it is a huge part of why we’re there and why it’s been so successful. We have about five Whatsapp groups that never stop. There’s a chat group and it’s just people chatting and having craic and I think people really need that. It has created friendship groups. I personally have friends for life that I made in the group.

“We’re always there to support our members, the ethos of Waves is to try and break the stigma of mental health. Not a lot of people like to say they’re part of a group that has ‘mental health’ in the name but that, to me, is part of the reason we have it in there. It’s not to say that you have a mental health issue, just like you go to the gym to improve your physical health. We will continue to try as hard as we can, locally, to raise as much money for mental health charities in the city as possible.”

The fundraisers will take part at 11am on Saturday, July 9 and Sunday, July 10 at Ludden Beach. There will be buckets to make donations on the beach and at the Wooden Brew in Tooban on Sunday. Follow @wavescoldwater on Facebook or @wavesformentalhealth on Instagram for more information.

Anyone in distress in NI can contact Lifeline 24/7 helpline can be contacted for free on 0808 808 8000 in confidence; The Samaritans can be contacted 24/7 on 02871 265511 or Freephone 116 123 in confidence; Children can contact Childline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on 0800 1111 for any issue or by visiting www.childline.org.uk in confidence.

Anyone in distress in RoI can contact Pieta House free on 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444; TEXT Crisis Textline Ireland on 50808 - a free 24/7 text service; Ring Samaritans 24/7 on freephone number 116-123.