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The Big Splash

Next week is the National Brain Awareness Week - an annual event which takes place this year from March 15th - 21st. Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is a global campaign, founded by The Dana Foundation, to engage and educate the public on the advances and advantages of brain research in a worldwide celebration of the brain!

Working in close partnership with Sunrise for Brain Conditions, the focus of the Henley Mermaids' fundraising campaign this year is to support eight charities across the UK & Ireland who are tirelessly working in the research and provision of support services for sufferers and their loved ones who deal with the four key brain conditions of Parkinson's Disease, Motor Neurone Disease, Huntington's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

While somewhat (very) impromptu, we thought that we would like to do our bit to help raise awareness of these brain conditions during Brain Awareness Week, most particularly in Ireland, where access to medical assistance and support services is often amongst the lowest in the Western world - we also hope to raise some much needed funds for the charities involved. Being well used to splashing about in the Thames all year around, the Mermaids thought that we could take our many followers on a virtual swim in the Thames each day during BAW, whilst also introducing the charities we are working with, and hearing from some sufferers of brain conditions and learning first hand about their experiences. Therein was born the Henley Mermaid's Splash initiative, lead by Joanie!

So, what can you expect from us each day next week? Well, we plan to release a 3-4 minute video each day from March 15th - 21st, where you'll get to join Joanie and one other Mermaid for a daily swim at one of our local swim spots along the River Thames. You'll get to enjoy some of the banter on the river banks with us and later in the week, we'll have a camera down in the water with us so you can see the the sunrise and nature in all its glory, just as we do. Over the week, Joanie and the Mermaids plan to answer all the questions that we get asked all the time about wild swimming - why do we do it, why we don't wear wetsuits, how our bodies feel in cold water, how we acclimatise, what our training routines are for channel swimming etc... Additionally, each day we will have a snippet of information from some of the charities we are working with, as well as sufferers of these conditions.

For those of you not on social media websites, our daily videos will be added to this blog page, so you can binge watch them at your leisure, just like Netflix! We hope you enjoy them, whilst also becoming more informed about brain conditions and the plight of those who live with them.

Ever the target driven saleswoman, Joanie has set a target of raising €2,000 for our chosen charities through our Big Splash initiative - if successful, Joanie has made a daring pledge to do something...... Check out her launch video below for more info!

See you at the river next week!!

March 12th - Announcing the Splash Initiative

March 15th - Day 1 of The Big Splash with Mermaid Susan Barry and John Kelly from Sunrise for Brain Conditions

Having successfully completed the English Channel last summer, the vast amount of our training happened in the river and lakes around Henley, as well as in the local swimming pools and lidos. Given the COVID lockdown restrictions, we had limited opportunity to train in the ocean. The experience taught us that there are some big differences between sea swimming and freshwater swimming - in today's #BigSplash video, Mermaids Joan and Susan touch on this topic, most particularly on how temperatures vary between oceans and rivers throughout the year.

Our featured speaker on today's #BigSplash is John Kelly, who is a founding member of, which is a Not for Profit partnership working closely with four key charities in Ireland covering Parkinsons, Motor Neurone, Multiple Sclerosis and Huntingtons. For the Mermaid's Bristol Channel campaign this summer, has brought four sister British charities into the fold, who also cover these conditions.

March 16th - Day 2 of The Big Splash with Mermaid Fiona Print and Melanie Cunningham from Multiple Sclerosis Ireland

As year round openwater and endurance swimmers, we often get asked about our swim kit - why we don't wear wetsuits is probably the most common one, but there are lots of other frequent questions too. On Day 2 of the Henley Mermaids #BigSplash campaign which we are doing in support of #BrainAwarenessWeek2021, Mermaids Joan Fennelly and Fiona Marie Print talk about, and show the "essential" pieces of kit, as well as the "highly desirable" pieces of kit.

As the Henley Mermaids are supporting eight wonderful charities across the UK & Ireland covering four key neurological conditions, our featured charity today is Multiple Sclerosis Ireland.

As ever, we hope that you are entertained as well as enlightened! Please support our fundraising activities for these charities on

March 17th - Day 3 of The Big Splash with Mermaid Jo Robb and Peter Kavanagh from Motor Neurone Association of Ireland

Want to hear first hand about some of the challenges of swimming the English Channel? Learn all about it as Henley Mermaids Joan Fennelly and Jo Robb discuss it all (the highs and the lows) as they walk along the river Thames for a swim on Day 3 of their #BigSplash​ campaign, in support of #BrainAwarenessWeek2021​. Today's #BigSplash​ video features a beautiful clip from Peter Kavanagh on Motor Neurone Disease, which is both insightful and inspiring. We hope you are both entertained and enlightened by the content!

March 18th - Day 4 of The Big Splash with Mermaid Laura Reineke and Joe Condon from Young Parkinson's Ireland

Join Henley Mermaids Joan Fennelly and Laura Reineke on Day 4 of The Big Splash campaign for Brain Awareness Week 2021. As the ladies walk and talk their way up the river bank at the Flower Pot in Henley for a 'swoosh' swim, the topic of conversation today is about Parkinson's Disease and the family connections which both ladies have with the condition.

With no Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) available in Ireland right now, sufferers of Parkinson's Disease have to make repeated trips over and back to the UK for treatment at a cost of up to €60,000. Great work is underway to bring DBS to Ireland and funds raised by the Mermaids this year will go towards the provision of monitors/sensors for capturing realtime biometric data from Parkinson's sufferers, both pre and post surgery, helping them to live life without tremors.

March 19th - Day 5 of The Big Splash with HOWSC club mate Mike Wood and volunteers from Huntington's Disease Ireland

On Day 5 of #TheBigSplash initiative for #BrainAwarenessWeek2021, Joanie was accompanied by HOWSC club mate Mike Wood and the benefits of outdoor swimming for mental health were discussed, both on the river bank and down in the water (yes you get 'virtually wet and cold' today folks!!). Our featured charity for Day 5 is Huntington's Disease Ireland, who also feature in the video, as well as some funny clips from the Edit Room floor!! As ever, we hope to entertain as well as enlighten!

We thank those who have made donations this week, but we still have a bit of a way to go if you want to see Joanie jump off that pontoon this weekend!! Please support our fundraising activities for these fantastic charities on our home page (, by clicking the Irish flag to donate to the four Irish charities, or the Union Jack to donate to the four British charities.

March 20th - Day 6 of The Big Splash with Mermaid Susan Barry and Alex Wingrave from Cure Parkinson's

On Day 6 of #TheBigSplash campaign for Brain Awareness Week, Joanie is accompanied by fellow Mermaid Susan Barry and today’s discussion is around some self-perceptions of us as swimmers vs what others think, and also the power of determination!

Today we are featuring some of our UK charities, most notably Cure Parkinson’s and Huntington's Disease Youth Organisation. While the in-water camera work didn’t ‘quite’ go to plan, stay tuned for some funny clips from the Edit Room floor which come at the end of today’s video. As ever, we hope to entertain as well as enlighten.

March 21st - Day 7 of The Big Splash with the five Henley Mermaids and guest speakers Anneka Harvey and Niamh Cahill

On Day 7, the final day of the Henley Mermaid’s #BigSplash campaign for Brain Awareness Week 2021, we have an action packed video for you today! Starting with some sound bytes from each of the Henley Mermaids, we also feature two AMAZING Irish ladies, Anneka Harvey and Niamh Cahill – both consider themselves lucky survivors of very serious brain injuries and touch on the challenges of accessing services and medical support in the fight for survival and rehabilitation.

While we are currently about £/€400 shy of our target this week, in anticipation of hitting it, the Mermaid team joined Joanie to do the #BigSplash by jumping off the pontoon – video evidence/footage is in today’s video, along with some funny footage in the Edit Room Floor Clips! Please consider giving whatever few quid you can to help us hit that 2,000 target - Euros and Sterling are both very acceptable and welcome. All funds raised get split equally between our British & Irish charities and donations can be made via the homepage on this website (

We thank you all most sincerely for engaging with us and our videos over the past week . We hope you enjoyed them and are somewhat more enlightened by the brain conditions we are raising awareness and funding for. We look forward to delivering future instalments/episodes as we progress with our training for the Bristol Channel relay swim in July.

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