Dip in the sea at Redcar in memory of baby Joey

AN icy dip in the North Sea is a popular way for brave souls to see in the New Year or to mark Boxing Day – either as a charity fundraiser or just for fun.

For Jennie Pearce-Roberts and Sophie Cox, two amazing women who this summer tackled all 214 Wainwright peaks of the Lake District in just four weeks, it was a chance to round off a year marked by tragedy with some much-needed positivity.

A disclaimer: Jennie is one of my oldest and best friends, and Sophie, her fiancée, is also now one of my best friends.

Since meeting Jennie at Guisborough Swimming Club when we were primary school age, and being part of the same close-knit group throughout our time at Laurence Jackson School, we’ve supported each other through countless ups and downs.

But the death of Sophie’s 10-month-old nephew, Joey Bedford, in June 2020 after a short illness, was beyond any tragedy any of us had ever known.

Jennie and Sophie threw themselves into supporting Joey’s parents, Gina and Jordan, and just a few weeks after Joey’s funeral, they had packed up a camper van and set off on their challenge to climb the Wainwrights, with a hope of raising around £1,000.

They didn’t know if they would even reach that – but Joey’s story touched the hearts of so many they have now raised more than £20,000 which is due to be donated to charities including the Sick Children’s Trust, which provides accommodation for parents of children in hospital.

When they arranged for a dip in the sea at Redcar for the day after Boxing Day, I jumped at the chance to support them.

Yes, it was freezing. But it was also joyful to see my two friends that I am so incredibly proud of, and blast into the icy water, screaming and laughing together.

Jennie said: “The positivity, camaraderie and bravery of everyone who came to join in the dip was amazing. It really sums up the day, and sums up people’s support for us and Joey over the last six months.

“To raise £20,000 is unbelievable. We are glad to be able to help other families who have poorly children, or who are bereaved.

“But also, all these events and challenges have been to remember Joey.

“People have kept supporting us too, which is amazing. And lots of other people have done their own challenges – it has not just been us.

“We hope to do more in the future – to help people by raising money for good causes, but also to get people out to support their physical and mental health. Being in the outdoors has helped with our mental health this year, and we’ve tried to include other people in walks that are socially-distant.

“We want to keep the positivity going into 2021 – while always remembering Joey.”

Jennie and Sophie may be my friends, but they are a true inspiration and are my heroes of 2020.

The Northern Echo | Teesside