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Survivor backs Christmas appeal as RNLI in Wales reveals the impact of Coronavirus

AN American surfer rescued off the Welsh coast, who says he is lucky to be alive to celebrate the festivities, is urging the people of Wales to support the RNLI’s Christmas appeal.

The fundraising drive has been launched as the charity reveals it has lost millions in income as fundraising activities had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. Surfer Jack Lyons, 18, became trapped beneath cliff in heavy surf, after being swept away by a rip current close to Porthcawl. He was plucked to safety in a dramatic rescue by the Porthcawl RNLI crew.

This year he will be celebrating Christmas at home with his family in New York but says things could have been very different. At a time of reflection, he has sent a message of thanks to his rescuers for saving his life. Jack says:

‘I’m an experienced surfer, but things changed very quickly. I suddenly realised how much danger I was actually in. I just couldn’t fight the current and could feel myself being pulled under. Seeing the lifeboat coming towards me is a sight I’ll never forget. I am eternally grateful to the crew of Porthcawl. I’m still in touch with them and will always remember what they did for me. At this time of year, more than ever, when family is so important, I will be reflecting on how things could have been very different.

Due to the pandemic, this festive period for many will be different, but my family could have been facing a very different Christmas without me. ‘I am aware it has been a difficult time for the RNLI and that’s why I would urge people to get behind their Christmas appeal and give what they can to support these fantastic crews, who put themselves in danger to help others.’

The lifesaving charity had to spend £1.2M this year to ensure its volunteer lifeboat crews and beach lifeguards had the vital PPE, such as face masks and gloves, to keep our lifesavers safe. This was money the charity hadn’t planned to spend, at a time when RNLI shops were forced to close and fundraising events were cancelled.

Events across Wales such as raft races, open days and festive dips have had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus restrictions. In addition, volunteer-run RNLI shops been closed for the majority of the year. Fundraisers have been thinking up innovative ways to continue supporting the RNLI crews in line with government guidance.

The charity’s annual Reindeer Runs which see herds of supporters donning antlers and taking on a fun festive run has been adapted this year. The charity is calling on people to run the event virtually on Saturday 12 or Sunday 13 December and donate to the RNLI. More information is available here: Virtual bike rides have been particularly popular, with Flint’s Lifeboat Operations Manager cycling the 874-mile virtual bike distance from ‘John O Groats to Lands’ End’ on his 70th birthday – all from his front garden. A similar cycle challenge at Barry Dock RNLI Lifeboat Station saw keen cyclists virtually visit the 30 lifeboat stations across Wales, raising over £4,000 to keep lifeboat crews afloat.

Rhyl RNLI father and son duo Bob and Mathew Baines are fronting the Christmas appeal in Wales. They say the station has seen the cancellation of a huge number of popular fundraising events such as the air show, raft race and annual musical festival. The station are now determined to still hold a Covid safe annual festive dip to raise much needed funds. They are inviting people to pay £5 to take a virtual festive dip and support them through these difficult times.

Bob, a volunteer tractor driver at Rhyl RNLI says: ‘We were devastated to have to cancel our fundraising events, especially as it’s such a good opportunity to meet our local supporters. We’ve had a very challenging summer, rescuing those in difficulty in the midst of a pandemic and with foreign holidays being cancelled, we’ve received more visitors to our local beaches. Throughout the pandemic the crew at Rhyl have been ready to answer the pager and rescue those in difficulty.’

Additional PPE and adapting to coronavirus restrictions has been challenging for the volunteer crew members and lifeguards across Wales. For 2020, the RNLI have purchased in 6.7 million units of coronavirus PPE including almost 700,000 face masks, 2.4 million gloves and just under 5,000 litres of hand sanitiser. RNLI lifesavers continued to work tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep people safe as lockdown restrictions eased and people flocked to the coast. As a charity, the RNLI relies on the support of the public to continue saving lives – and that support is needed now more than ever. Help us brave a wave we never expected.

To make a donation to the RNLI’s Christmas Appeal visit: RNLI.org/Xmas

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