An award-winning grandma is swimming the length of the English Channel to raise funds for a charity that cared for her brother before he died of cancer.

Julie Scurfield, of Chester-le-Street, was the overall winner at The Northern Echo’s Local Heroes Awards in 2018 for her dedication in launching the Amazons Football Club for girls.

Now, Julie has embarked on a 22-mile charity swim in support of Macmillan Cancer Support to say thank you for the care given to her brother Dan.

Dan, a global accounts manager who lived in Sunderland, died in May, just six days after being diagnosed with cancer.

Julie said: “Dan was truly inspirational. He had a fun-loving personality and I cannot recall one conversation I had with him that wasn’t peppered with huge laughter as he cracked one witty comment after another. It is no coincidence to any of us that the day he died was National Laughter Day.”

She said the Macmillan team had been “absolutely incredible”, not just in the way they cared for Dan, but the support they gave to his wife, Lynn.

Julie explained that Lynn is partially sighted, and the couple had been preparing to move into a bungalow when he fell ill.

“He was so worried about making sure she would be able to move into the bungalow, but Macmillan sorted all the pensions, and paperwork, and put his mind at rest.

“Dan was singing the Macmillan nurses’ praises the day before he died, and it helped him to relax. They got him to a place where he felt it was OK to let go, and he died, peacefully, holding Lynn’s hand.”

Julie decided to tackle the charity swim during an appointment with her hairdresser and friend, Kirsty Barrass, who lost her mother, Vivien, to cancer three years ago.

“I’m not a swimmer, but I wanted to do something challenging, so we agreed to do it together for Macmillan,” said Julie.

The swim equates to 1,408 lengths of Chester-le-Street swimming pool, broken down into 39 lengths, three times a week, for 12 weeks.

Julie initially set a target of £500 but that was reached within the first hour, and was up to £1,500 before she’d even set foot in the water.

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