Doing It For Dylan

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Up and down the country, there are thousands of people doing good deeds every day, and we decided to celebrate the great work that charities and campaigns undergo with a regular feature on Tuesdays, to tie-in with #CharityTuesday on Twitter.

This week we found out all about Doing It For Dylan, a campaign started up by Dylan’s mum, Rebecca Ramsay. Sadly, Dylan lost his life in 2011 while swimming in open water. Rebecca noticed that there was a need for education with regards to open water swimming and started the campaign to raise awareness.

How did the campaign come to be founded?
On July the 3rd 2011 my eldest son Dylan went swimming in a disused quarry with two friends. Dylan was 13 nearly 14 and the two friends who are brothers were 15 and 19. After being in the water for around 20 minutes Dylan got into some kind of trouble and called for help 3 times. Three Polish men had arrived at the quarry by this point who had planned to go diving at the quarry. One of the men soon realised that Dylan was in need of help so ran down the steep path stripping off his clothes. By the time he made it to the bottom Dylan was under water. He jumped into the water and Dylan was around 2 metres under the water still standing. The guy pulled Dylan by his hair and dragged him onto a small island where he did CPR until emergency services arrived. Dylan was only under water for 3 minutes. However after emergency services arrived he was pronounced dead at the scene. No defibrillator was used. No adrenaline was given. The advanced life saving equipment was not even used.

Dylan was extremely fit and healthy, very clever, athletic, popular, loved, an amazing swimmer and free runner he was one in a million. As a parent I never thought in a million years that water would ever be an issue to Dylan. He had been swimming since the age of 8 months he was swimming with school in open water just a few weeks before he lost his life. (He wore personal protective clothing i.e. dry suit, I often wonder what if any safety advice was given to the students at this point and wonder if this gave Dylan extra bravado to think he would be okay swimming in open water.)

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Immediately I could not believe that my son had died in open water. How? Why? As I have already said Dylan was clever and a good swimmer.

I started looking up how and why people lose their lives in open water, to say I was shocked is an understatement. Straight away I realised we had a huge issue losing roughly 400 lives every year in open water. More people die in water than fires. Cold water shock seems to be the biggest killer. Yet no formal education has ever been in place. I was devastated and filled with a guilt which I will forever hold. I taught my children the dangers, drink, drugs, sex education, road safety, fire safety etc. I never taught my children the dangers in and around open water but the truth is I did not know the dangers myself. How can you teach what you don’t know?

Within 2/3 weeks of Dylan’s death I had visited two schools to talk about the dangers of swimming in open water and to tell people all about Dylan. I was shocked at how little was known by so many teachers and adults included. The impact I left after these two presentations was overwhelming. I knew I had to do something.

All summer I spent researching and learning about all the dangers in and around open water. As soon as schools started back I contacted school after school asking if I could speak with their pupils. Often I was ignored or not contacted back. However I persevered, I kept calling and kept trying to visit as many as possible. Soon I was in schools a lot and soon got backing from local press and radio stations.

To start with I only covered my local area of Lancashire, Preston, Chorley, Longridge, Blackburn, Nelson etc. I soon got involved with Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and became a volunteer for them. I was soon attending schools and water safety events in Manchester. It very soon expanded even further afield. Soon I was attending Swansea, down South, up North, Newcastle, Northamptonshire, Birmingham, the Midlands, North, East, South and West of the country.

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Where are you based and what geographical areas do you support people in?
Geographically I cover the whole country really if I can attend I will. My campaign has also reached America, Australia, Canada, Turkey and many other countries.

How do you support people?
I teach people the dangers in and around open water. I teach people that their actions have consequences on others and often it is their loved ones for the rest of their lives. I support people by sharing my knowledge in order for them to learn from it and pass it onto their loved ones, hopefully reducing water related fatalities and families pain.

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How many people do you have working at the charity?
I am not a founded charity and fund everything myself however I do hope in the future to become a charity. There is only me that works on a voluntary basis for this campaign. I have spoken to around 50,000 people since the death of my son on my own. That does not cover conferences or public events which I have attended.

How can people support you?
I support many families who are going through this pain and heartache. People can support me by sharing my message, help raise funds for life saving equipment and more water rescue training. I do ask for a contribution towards my travel if I am traveling any great distance.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?
I have faced a few challenges along the way. Getting other agencies working together has proved difficult however I think it is better now than it was 5 years ago. Open water swimmers have also given me a little hassle. Not understanding that my campaign is not aimed at those who understand the dangers in and around open water. My campaign and I have been seen as a “Challenge”. Not sure what kind of person challenges themself to a grieving mother who is trying to make a difference in her son’s memory. I always ask if there is anything factually incorrect to let me know but as of yet no-one has said anything I share is factually incorrect. I do my research from reputable people, agencies, etc I always say No Lifeguard = No Swimming, this is Doing it for Dylan’s golden rule which could save a life.

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Do you have any charity events coming up and where can people find out about these events?
I have events all the time daily which I attend, whether it be with the fire service, multi agency events, school events, visiting colleges, universities, I have been involved in water safety/drowning prevention for many many hours a day since losing Dylan sometimes starting at 5/6 in the morning and not getting to bed until 2/3 in the morning. I also have 3 children to look after and a house to run.

Is there any advice you could give to other charities?
Advice to other charities… Always remember why the charity was founded. Collaboration is key. There is no cure for death so prevention is the only way. Education is key. You can never gain too much awareness. Stay focused on what the goal is. Mine is to reduce water related fatalities which will reduce pain and heartache. Never let the raising of money become more important than the cause you are fighting.

Rebecca has started a petition via the UK Government and Parliament petitions website calling for water safety to be taught as part of the national curriculum age appropriate. If you would like to support her cause, you can sign the petition here.

You can find out more about Doing It For Dylan via Facebook or Twitter.

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