Dip in the Nip 2011

Today’s guest post is written by Irish woman, Maire Garvey, organiser for the third year running of Dip in the Nip. Here Maire shares the story of what led her to establish this successful cancer fundraiser.

When people asked me why I started organising the Dip in the Nip, they are always surprised to find out that I had not encountered cancer in my life beforehand.  They’re even more surprised to hear that the idea came from a visit to a psychic!

In January 2009, I was unemployed and the Celtic Tiger had upped and died. I had moved to Sligo only 18 months beforehand and did not want to go back to Dublin, having spent all of my adult life there. I would have swept the streets, as long as I could stay in Sligo. A friend – sensible, grounded, no-nonsense sort of chap – suggested I visit a friend of his, the aforementioned psychic. I was sceptical, but he told me that she was somebody who was very good at helping people find their direction. So I figured the only thing I had to lose was a few euro.

After about 10 minutes, she said that she wanted to ask me something, but was concerned about offending me. I reassured her that I wasn’t easily offended, and she asked me if I liked to swim naked. When I answered in the affirmative, she said, ‘Oh, thank God! Because I see you and a whole group of women naked in a large body of water’.

I dismissed it, as my skinny dipping up to that point was done at a very quiet beach and very early in the morning, when I could be assured that nobody else would be there. I was not a naturist, and had no desire to be – still don’t, in fact. So while I was insistent that what she saw was wrong, she was equally insistent that she had seen what she had seen.

It was when I was leaving that it occurred to me that this might be a great way of raising money for cancer. I said it to her, and her reply was simply, ‘You’re mad’.

But the idea wouldn’t go away, so I brought it to the Irish Cancer Society. And they liked it, much to my surprise.  And so I started to organise a Womens Skinny Dip for Action Breast Cancer, a programme of the Irish Cancer Society.

There is much about this event that has surprised me, and continues to surprise me. It is no exaggeration to say that everything I have needed to make it happen has been put in my path. In the first year, a journalist who had retired to Donegal, got wind of it and wrote about it, and it was picked up by all the national newspapers. In turn, the late great Gerry Ryan got wind of it and interviewed me. He had also spotted the headline ‘Dip in the Nip’ in one of the tabloids, and kept calling it that, and I thought it was perfect. And so the simple Skinny Dip became Dip in the Nip.

I was stunned by many of the calls I got after that interview – the phone didn’t stop until well into the afternoon, and for every call I took, there were two messages. Women who had had mastectomies, single and double, called and asked if they could do the Dip, and were more concerned about embarrassing other women than anything else. The fact that they wanted to do the Dip felt like the best endorsement I could ask for this crazy project.

180 women did it that first year. Between them, they raised over €56,000, which was astounding for a first-time event, especially as I had thought that maybe I could persuade 50 women to do it, and if we did well, we might raise about €5,000.

The Dip in the Nip has become more than a fundraiser – it is a celebration of life. And for many of the participants, it is literally that – they are celebrating the fact of still being alive. Others do it in memory of a loved one. In fact, this years Dip in the Nip is being dedicated to Mona Heneghan, one of our first Dippers and one of our first Calendar Girls, who lost her battle to cancer last August. Mona was one of those people who made an impact on everybody who met her: she had great charisma, and was somebody you simply wanted to be around. The Dip encouraged her outside of her comfort boundaries – as it does for a lot of people – and she spoke about it up until she died, about the change it had wrought in her.

And still others do it because it’s fun, or because it’s something to strike off their bucket list. Because it has become more than a fundraiser, I have to remind people that that is its primary purpose. That we are raising money so that – maybe – one day, cancer will no longer be the scourge it is. We are raising money so that people who have to go through chemotherapy mightn’t have to lose their hair, on top of everything else they’ve endured. We are raising money to help some people avoid chemotherapy altogether. And we are raising money to help provide a better standard of care all round for people who have cancer.  Money raised from this years Dip will go to the Haematology & Oncology Department in Sligo General Hospital, the Research & Education Trust in our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and to the Irish Cancer Society.

And two years after that fateful visit to the psychic, I have indeed found my direction – more than that, my purpose. The Dip in the Nip has become my passion, and it is a privilege to be able to do something that helps, and to meet the people that have walked that walk. I am in the process of setting up the Dip in the Nip as a charity in its own right, and am already planning many more Dips, not just in Ireland, but further afield as well. I feel blessed and humbled to have found my calling halfway through my life.

If you would like more details of the Dip in the Nip, or do it, or support somebody who is doing it, you can go to www.dipinthenip.eu, follow us on Facebook , support one of the Dippers who is fundraising through www.mycharity.ie or follow me on Twitter – @MaireSligo. You can also call me on 086-173 3019.