Jonathan Francis

Chilly Swim 2020 - Alex

Fundraising for Motor Neurone Disease Association
raised of £1,000 target
by 171 supporters
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Event: Chilly Swim 2020, on 19 December 2020
We fund care, campaigning and research to achieve a world free from MND


We are swimmers at Vobster Quay. We'll be open water swimming on the 19th of December in cold water to raise money for MNDA. Alex Francis is a swimmer at Vobster Quay and has MND. While Alex attempts to swim 350m the elites will race him to a mile! Others will swim as far as they can manage in the cold water.


Cold water swimming with MND

I started swimming in the cold water of Vobster Quay in September 2019, about 4 months after my MND diagnosis. With the help of some very special friends I kept going through the winter months, but had to stop during the first lockdown. When I restarted, later in 2020, my disease had progressed and I had to adapt to my new limitations. Now in the winter of 2020 I'm challenging myself and others to take to the cold water as a way to raise funds for MND Association.

Read the full story of why I love cold water swimming

My challenge

Recently my swims have consisted of about 100m slow backstroke, followed by neuromuscular exercises and some time upright in the water wearing a flotation belt. The last time I swam a "half lap" of the lake, 350m, was back in March. This will be a big challenge for me and is likely to take me over 30 minutes. The water temperature will be around 9°C and the significant part of the challenge will be staying warm enough despite limited movement. I will have my lovely crew - Jolene, Sara, Neil plus Ali and Richard - watching over me to make sure we all stay safe despite the cold.

Why I'm asking for your support

I never in a million years thought I would get sick with a terminal illness at the age of 42. I was superfit and healthy with a young family. Life was going really well. And then I was diagnosed.

The MND Association helped us immediately after diagnosis with their support helpline and they have continued to help us as we have needed it. For families like mine, they assist with advice, connecting with other services we need, provide advocacy when necessary and provide financial help with the unexpected burdens of adjusting to life with MND.

MND can hit anyone at any time. It is not a lifestyle disease. I cannot tell my children what to do to protect themselves from this threat because we do not know enough about the causes yet.

The Association directly funds research into the disease. Understanding of this and related neurodegenerative diseases has advanced hugely in the last few years but we still have very little in the way of treatment and nothing that will halt the relentless progressive paralysis caused by the disease. A few decades ago, cancer was poorly understood and often untreatable; it is now survivable. MND can become treatable but we need to fund research projects to get us there.

I deeply appreciate anything you can contribute.

Why this?

Because I can! I would like to inspire others, with or without chronic illness, to explore the therapeutic power of cold water. And I want to say to MND, "I'm still here!"

About the charity

The MND Association focuses on improving access to care, research and campaigning for those living with or affected by MND in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. If you or a loved one need practical or emotional support, call our Connect Helpline on 0808 802 6262, Mon to Fri between 10am and 4pm.

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