What is the Thomas Smith Christmas Charity swim about?
The Thomas Smith Charity Swim is a Christmas activity loved by many. Now in its 19th year, the event has become a fixture in Malta’s calendar of events. It is an exhilarating experience which attracts the masses to meet up, strip off and splash around. Previous editions have seen the participation of children, youths, adults and seniors. Every year, new people join and dive in for a good cause. The event is not a race, although a designated target is placed about 50 metres from the shore. The Christmas Charity Swim is held under the patronage of the Office of the President, and aims to raise as many funds possible in aid of the Malta Community Chest Fund. The public is encouraged to grab their favourite swimsuit and brave the cold waters, while helping those in need.
The event is traditionally held off the pier by Independence Garden, Sliema. Swimmers gather on the beach to wait for the President of Malta to inaugurate the swim.
For how long has the charity swim been carried out?
For a number of years, Thomas Smith Group has been the mind behind one of the most sensational Christmas events to date. This is the 19th edition of the Thomas Smith Christmas Charity Swim. What started off as a bet between friends has now become an annual Christmas-time appointment. We are happy the event has generated a growing interest and continues to attract an ever-growing number of swimmers, expressing their solidarity and altruism by jumping into the cold sea.
What does the charity swim involve?
The Thomas Smith Christmas Charity Swim showcases the nation’s love to help out, such that a number of swimmers flock to the beach on a cold December day, leaving behind their cosy quilt, in order to jump into the sea, swim towards a mark approximately 50 metres away from shore, for a good cause. Back on land, they will receive their participating medal directly from the President. Swimmers may make way to the registration desk at 09.30hrs and present their donation. The swim starts at 10.30am. The President will share a few words of encouragement to the participants and thank all the supporters for their commitment and donations.
There’s a lot going on the day, and it is great to see Thomas Smith staff involved to ensure it is a successful event. Of course, a number of employees also take a dip in the cold waters! The Civil Protection Department together with the Malta Red Cross, the Emergency and Fire Rescue Unit, as well as St. John’s Ambulance will be present on the day, and assisting.
How much money does each participant need to raise to take part?
Any contributions are welcome. Yearly we encourage participants to urge their family, friends and colleagues to sponsor them for their heroic gesture, and help them collect a nice sum.
The total amount collected varies year on year. In the past the sum reached €10,000 and even €15,000. Last year’s event was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions which could have been hazardous and unsafe to swimmers. Nonetheless, a sum of €5,000 was presented to the Malta Community Chest Fund. The amount was reached through public donations received prior to the intended event date, and topped up by Thomas Smith Group and its staff. The company always donates a financial contribution to top up the final amount collected and provides financial support and human resources for all logistics and organisational requirements.
Thomas Smith aims to collect even more funds this year, and is once again encouraging more swimmers to brave the cold waters.
What is the money raised used for?
The aim behind this activity is to collect as much money as possible, to be donated to the Malta Community Chest Fund, a foundation which aides to improve the way of life of the local community. Ever since its inception, the Group, together with the swimmers’ donations have collected just over €102,000. The funds are presented to the President of Malta at San Anton Palace. The MCCF would add our funds to other donations presented to the foundation, and would in turn provide financial support to the various individuals and organisations experiencing difficulties and requiring support.
Are there any anecdotes from past swims?
In recent years we have seen participants try and come up with original costumes. At first, they showed up with Christmas hats and wigs. Then there were others who dressed up in Santa suits. Some even join on their surfboards dressed up as Santa! And in the most recent edition there were participants who joined in the fun on their kayaks.
The youngest participant was just under three years old, who broke the record of her sister who was three years old when she first participated.
One of the eldest and veteran participants has confirmed he will be joining us again this year. Another regular swimmer recently passed away at the age of 80. He will be missed this year, as he actively helped promote the swim with his friends and together donate a nice sum of money.
How has the money helped others?
Given that the money is donated to a foundation, the funds helped more than one individual, more than one family, who are in need of financial aid. The Malta Community Chest Fund provides financial and professional support to people experiencing difficulties because of severe chronic illness, including cancer – as well as persons with disability, people in poverty, while also supporting Voluntary Organisations. It is an honour to assist the Office of the President in raising funds for those members of our society needing help, and through this event, we hope to generate even more awareness.
It seems that this is going to be a rather cold swim. How do you prepare for this?
The sea experiences a drop in temperature at this time of the year. Previous years involved jumping into the cold waters, and it did not discourage the hundreds who flocked to take part in the chilly challenge. Even though it is not a race, it is still a challenge. A number of regular swimmers as well as participants who will be joining for the first time, have already contacted us and expressed they are extremely looking forward to this year’s event.
Swimmers need not worry about freezing up. A tot of whiskey, a hot cuppa and nibbles will be waiting for the swimmers once on land.
Those who do not feel like getting wet still have a place on the day. The beach is normally filled with spectators waiting to cheer upon their family and friends, while also being involved in the ultimate cause by making their own donations.
How many swimmers are taking part this year?
A number of persons have already shown interest, though the participants will keep increasing until the actual date. The total number of swimmers will then be announced following the registration.
The maximum number of participants reached a total of 320, aged 3 to 78 years.
We hope the event grows bigger in terms of participation and most importantly increasing the total funds collected.
What is the experience like? Why you believe it is important to take part in such an event?
The atmosphere on the day is incredible. It is an adrenaline-charged experience – you have to be experience it.
There are a number of families that need our support, and with such a gesture, we can all help making it better to some extent. Every little helps, but altogether we can bring smiles to faces. Participating in such meaningful activities will in turn make us feel happier and healthier, so hang on to your Christmas hats, count to three and take the leap.
Participants may fill in the registration form on the day, or may download one in advance to beat the queues. A registration form may be retrieved from Thomas Smith Group’s website, by contacting Thomas Smith offices on 22 058 058, or by emailing [email protected].
Those who cannot attend yet still wish to donate may send a blank SMS to 50618178 (€4.66) or 50619279 (€11.65); or a bank transfer to the following account: HSBC Bank (Malta) plc, 32, Merchants Street, Valletta. Account No.: 033-080037-002; Swift Code: MMEBMTMT; IBAN No. : MT04MMEB44336000000033080037002.
For further information interested individuals may call Thomas Smith on 22 058 058 or email [email protected].
Liza Parlato Trigona has become a regular at the Thomas Smith Charity swim for the last few years and her and her family are taking the splash for a good cause once again.
Is this the first time you are taking part in the charity swim? If not, how many times have you participated?
My first swim was in 2011 and I haven’t missed one since. Except last year when it was cancelled. That makes this my seventh swim.
Is your entire family taking part?
In 2011 I did it with a friend. Since then my brother and father have joined in the fun. My two sons also joined me one year – they were 5 and 6 years old. This year my youngest aged 9 is joining me again!
This year looks like it’s going to be a cold swim.
More of a challenge!! And a greater excuse to have a full blown extra decadent breakfast after!
Why do you take part in this specific event?
It’s always appealed to me… I absolutely love the sea so I’d grab any excuse to take the plunge. The fact that by doing so, you can help collect money for those in need makes it all the more worthwhile.
How much money have you raised or hope to raise?
This year I’m going to try to ask for sponsors from friends and family – usually I fall back on my husband.
What’s the best and worst part about the experience?
The best thing is the atmosphere- seeing so many people coming together to do something for those in need. Jelly fish are definitely the worst thing about the swim… and having to put your socks on damp feet!
Source: The Malta Independent