Clodagh Whelan – 100 Days of Swimming

Our Advocacy, Engagement & Participation Officer Clodagh Whelan is swimming in the sea for 100 days in a row to raise funds for The Alzheimer Society of Ireland.

It is a dark blustery morning on January 9th and I am clinging to a railing at Seapoint beach in Dublin about to dunk myself in ice cold water. The waves look like they will be above my head and Twitter tells me the water is 9 degrees. There is another woman just out of the water telling me ‘I NEED the cold’ with a friendly intensity.

Like everyone else on January 1st I was lying on the couch, made of cheese and thinking it might be time for a resolution. I saw Dr Ciara Kelly’s 100 Days of Walking Challenge and signed up.

I did my first walk on the beach in Ardmore and jumped in for a new year swim. I have always loved to swim, spending childhood summers by the coast swimming every day. I wondered what if I swam every day… and so the idea was born…. I decided to try 100 days of sea swimming.

It is a personal challenge but also a fundraiser.


For two years I managed a frontline service for The Alzheimer Society of Ireland. In addition to being responsible for the care of 20 people living with dementia, ensuring regulatory compliance, managing a building and being a line manager for a team of 13, I worried about funding. It is difficult to concentrate on person-centred care while wondering how much money was raised in last month’s table quiz.

Despite an amazing volunteer branch who fundraised and a supportive line manager, I was constantly worried and engaged in what my colleague Frances (who manages a social club for people affected by dementia) calls ‘the hustle’.

Trying to get better deals from suppliers, engaging in fundraising to create new and better opportunities for those attending the service and stretching resources to almost breaking point were all a regular part of that hustle.

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland is not appropriately or adequately funded. Despite providing care, advice and advocacy for thousands of people each week the organisation is funded to 58% of its needs. We must raise 3.3 million each year just to keep the show on the road. As a section 39 organisation The Alzheimer Society is not alone; there are charities across the country that undertake essential, often lifesaving, work who live this struggle every day.


Irish society has accepted the narrative that people who need healthcare are dependents who require charity, rather than human beings with a right to healthcare. Individuals, communities and corporate donors ensure that health services for the most vulnerable are available. And healthcare teams work every day to stretch ever shrinking resources.

Need an operation, how about a sponsored walk? Struggling with homecare? Maybe your local voluntary organisation can hold a cake sale? Recently the Rotunda hospital launched a fundraiser for essential equipment for its neo natal unit.

Without charitable fundraising the most vulnerable in our country would receive lesser healthcare. The thousands of people who volunteer and fundraise for The Alzheimer Society of Ireland deserve huge respect, without them the organisation would not survive.

But despite the funds raised, my colleagues throughout the organisation battle every day; they work longer and harder to keep services afloat. Staff run marathons, undertake sponsored walks and cajole family and friends to support the cause.

People living with dementia have walked the Camino, organised fundraising GAA Matches and take part in our Memory Ribbon Flag Day. Family Carers are cycling, baking, walking, knitting and running to raise money.

We connect with influencers like Greg O’Shea, Deric Hartigan and Louise Cooney to get the message out. And it is a stark message – The Alzheimer Society provides the majority of dementia supports and services across Ireland but is chronically underfunded. No county in Ireland has a basic minimum standard of dementia care and it is estimated that by 2036 the number of people living with dementia in Ireland will reach 113,000. That is double the amount of people living with dementia today.

My swimming in the sea won’t change this but I hope it will raise some money and awareness. What started out as a mad scheme is growing (sea) legs and I am starting to look forward to swims. My friends are joining in and my colleagues are hatching a plan to join me for the 100th swim.

Like the woman I met while clinging to that railing in Seapoint I too am becoming addicted to the cold, it is a daily shot of life affirming exhilaration. But more importantly the money raised will support the provision of services to help people with dementia and their families across the country. And that’s definitely worth one hundred days of swimming.

Clodagh Whelan is The ASI’s Advocacy, Engagement & Participation Officer 

For more information and to donate, please click Here

Follow Clodagh’s daily swims on Twitter @CloWhelan


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