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Three men in a Royal Navy boat

16 May 2016
A team from HMS Raleigh have come up with a wacky idea to raise money for their chosen charity – 24-hours in a life-raft moored on the River Lynher.

The three men stepped aboard the raft at 9 am at HMS Raleigh’s Sea Sense training centre at Jupiter Point, with the aim of raising money for the Derriford Children’s Cancer Service charity.

They returned to terra-firma at 9 am the next day, damp, tired but grateful to their supporters who had helped push their fundraising to just over £1,000.

The challenge was organised in support of Petty Officer (PO) Darren ‘Taff’ Garnett whose three-year-old son, Luke, was diagnosed with Leukaemia last year.  Luke is now in remission, but undergoing regular check-ups and treatment to hopefully prevent his illness returning, which means that his dad was able to be one of the volunteers aboard the life-raft. 

The little boy, his mum Jo and sister, Holly, who is aged five, were among the well-wishers who watched as PO Garnett, PO Craig Smith and Chief Petty Officer Shane Ludden embarked on their challenge.

I enjoyed being out there with the guys and knowing what we were doing it for, but it was hard. I was thinking about my son while I was in there, knowing that we were doing it for him and other children with cancer, so it was all worthwhile.

PO Garnett

PO Garnett said:  “Luke was initially cared for at Bristol Children’s Hospital and was later transferred to Derriford.  The staff at both hospitals were amazing as were my shipmates here at Raleigh who took part in a sponsored cycle ride last year to raise money for CLIC Sargent, the charity that ensured our needs with catered for while we were in Bristol.

"Other friends have continued to raise money in Luke’s name, which has been absolutely fantastic. PO Smith, came up with the idea of spending 24-hours in the life-raft and I was pleased to put my name forward.

"I enjoyed being out there with the guys and knowing what we were doing it for, but it was hard.  I was thinking about my son while I was in there, knowing that we were doing it for him and other children with cancer, so it was all worthwhile.  

"I feel that finally I’ve given a bit back and I’ve seen what it’s like to struggle and to see the struggle that the children go through every day, for us this was really just a drop in the ocean.”

The life-raft can take 25 people, 50 in an emergency with both tubes inflated.  Under normal circumstances the rafts are inflated via a lanyard which operates a bottle to charge the boat.  The raft used for the challenge was manually inflated by foot pump, an achievement in itself.

PO Smith said: “The idea came from seeing just how bad it was staying in a raft for four hours on a previous crazy scheme. This time it was a bit smelly and a bit damp in there, but we had a good bit of banter and put the world to rights.  

"It wasn’t as bad as what I thought it was going to be, but the boredom did set in after a while.  When you are trying to sleep and all of sudden the sheep start baaing, everything just wakes you up.

"The weather was rubbish it was hammering it down all night.”

Nursing staff from Derriford Hospital were also on-hand to wish the team well.  Tanya Crago, the lead nurse for paediatric oncology at Derriford Hospital, said: “I think this fundraiser is absolutely amazing. We talked about doing something a while ago when Luke was first diagnosed and came back to Plymouth from Bristol, and made plans of what we could do to raise some money.

"The money will go to Derriford Children’s Cancer Services and that charity in itself raises money to help and support the children and families through their cancer treatment.  

"Examples are we’ve used the money to take all of the children and their families to the pantomime at Christmas. We support travel to and from Bristol Children’s Hospital for treatment and this particular fund-raising event is to try to raise money so that we can refurbish one of the side rooms on the children’s out-patients department.

"It needs a little bit of work and it’s one of the things that Darren, Jo and Luke commented on, that it needed a telly and a bit of decoration.

"Also we’re hoping to open a new four-bedded day unit area and we would use the money towards that as well.”

Members of the public can show their support to the team by logging onto

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