Wednesday 13 December 2017

Pull on your antlers for a good Claus

This Christmas, why not go that extra mile for the charity committed to saving lives at sea

Alison O'Riordan

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity that saves lives at sea. It provides an on-call, 24-hour lifeboat search and rescue service off the coast of Ireland and the UK and on selected inland waters.

With its lifeboats, rescue craft, lifeguards, safety advice and flood rescue, the charity is committed to preventing drowning tragedies, and is therefore an essential service for anyone seeking fitness in the water.

The RNLI is independent from government and continues to rely on voluntary contribution and legacies for its income.

And over the coming weeks, thousands of volunteers will get into the Christmas spirit for the annual series of Reindeer Runs, which raise vital funds for the service.

Jenny Needham is a volunteer lifeboat crew member with Dún Laoghaire RNLI.

"We have both an all-weather and inshore lifeboat with approximately 30 active crew members at present," she says.

Growing up in the suburban seaside town, Jenny learned how to sail on dinghies.

"In my teens, I got involved in traditional sailing on tall ships like the STV (Sail Training Vessel) Jeanie Johnston. Later on, I found myself working on board the Jeanie.

"Having spent much time at sea and knowing the highlights and lowlights it could bring, when I settled back on dry land, I knew I still wanted to be a part of it all."

She began working for Dún Laoghaire Marina and this gave her the opportunity to join the local RNLI crew.

"I was finally working and living close enough to the station and I had the time and energy to commit to the role."

Luckily Jenny has never lost any family or friends to the sea. However, she has experienced how helpful the volunteer crew of lifeboats can be for having to negotiate some of the roughest sea conditions around Europe.

"Before I joined the crew, I was on board a tall ship close to the Skellig Islands off Kerry, where one of our passengers had a fall down the companionway with suspected spinal injuries. We had to call the lifeboat out for a medical evacuation in a Force Nine wind at 4am. I will always remember our relief seeing the lifeboat crew step on board in their big yellow wellies."

Time and commitment are the two biggest factors one needs to consider when becoming a crew member.

"You don't need any previous experience as the training you receive from the RNLI is second to none."

Jenny has been involved in a number of rescues since joining the charity.

"Obviously we get service calls to respond to incidences where the threat to life is imminent, the adrenalin kicks in and you step on board that boat leaving everything else on the shore.

"Some call-outs are more demanding, both physically and emotionally, but there is never a doubt or worry when responding as when you look around the lifeboat and see your fellow crew members, you realise that you are all in this together."

Without volunteers, the lifeboat service could not save lives at sea: the 2,000 volunteer fundraisers countrywide ensure the volunteer crew members can continue their invaluable work.

The annual Reindeer Run events in Cork and Dublin have fast become a favourite with families, runners and walkers, many of whom dress up in antlers to join in the fun and raise funds for the amazing charity.

The Reindeer Runs are being held this Sunday at Fota House and Gardens, Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, and Sunday, December 1, at Marlay Park, Dublin, with a 5k and 10k walk or run and a 1k Santa Saunter for younger participants.

Further information is available at or by emailing marlayreindeer@ for Dublin or for Cork.

Irish Independent

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