The daughter of a Ponteland woman who died as the result of a private battle with mental illness is taking on this year’s Great North Swim to raise money for, and awareness of, the fund that was set up in her mother’s memory.
Sally Allan went missing from her home on Boxing Day in 2015. Her disappearance sparked a huge search, before her body was recovered from water near to Riverside Quay at Tyne Dock West in South Shields on February 3, 2016.
The inquest into her death heard that CCTV images and witness reports suggested she walked for 11 miles before she most likely entered the River Tyne east of the Swing Bridge in Newcastle.
Her daughter, Claire Allan, will be among those doing the Great North Swim one-mile event in Lake Windermere on Saturday and she has also signed up for the two-mile course at the Great Scottish Swim, which will take place on Saturday, August 26, in Loch Lomond.
The 32-year-old and other family members established the Sally Allan Fund, in partnership with the charity Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, with a vision to provide a free 30-minute presentation to organisations or groups.
It has been designed to get people thinking about their own mental health and how they can help others, as well as spark some discussions about the issues raised with family, friends and work colleagues. It also gives advice on self-care.
Claire, who works for Northumbrian Water, said: “My mother was the one who gave me my passion for swimming from an early age.
“She encouraged us to swim in the sea at a safe distance from the shore, as she had enjoyed doing it when she was young, and she was one of the founder members of Ponteland Amateur Swimming Club – I swam with the club for eight years.
“I see her last moments alive as her going for a final swim in a lovely location and it’s nice that I will be doing these open water swims in her memory.
“She will be my inspiration as I dive into the water this summer and her encouragement will still be there getting me over the finish line.
“I’m looking forward to taking part in the events and hopefully the weather will be nice, particularly for those who come along to support the swimmers.
“It’s great to see that the Sally Allan Fund continues to grow and we were recently informed that 40 presentations raising awareness of mental health issues have now been given to more than 650 people across the North East.
“We’ve had plenty of positive feedback and there have already been instances where managers have spoken to employees they had concerns about to offer support to them and employees have approached their managers to say they need some help.”
She added that the open water training sessions in the lake at QEII Country Park on the north edge of Ashington to prepare for the events have gone well so far and she is hoping to complete the swim on Saturday in under 30 minutes.
To make a donation to Claire online, visit www.justgiving.com/Claire-Allan-Swim
For more information about the Sally Allan Fund, visit www.tynesidemind.org.uk/help-support/training-courses/sally-allan-fund.aspx