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A red light challenge for Rachel

By Paul Ainsworth

IT’S the famous river that slices through the Big Apple, and next month South Belfast woman Rachel Smith will be swimming a gruelling 10km stretch of it.

Charity worker Rachel is Family Service Co-ordinator for Cancer Focus Northern Ireland and is in training for the ‘Little Red Lighthouse Swim’, an annual fundraising event in New York named after the famous Jeffrey’s Hook Light building, situated just under the George Washington Bridge.

The Lisburn Road woman is a keen swimmer and hopes the NYC challenge will help rake in vital funds for Cancer Focus NI.

“I’m used to swimming in rivers and the sea but I’m really excited about this adventure as I’m not quite sure what to expect,” she said.

“For one thing, I’m used to swimming in cold water and this will be warm. It will be a real challenge. I’ve been training hard three or four times a week but it will still probably take me several hours to complete the course. The water looks pretty choppy from pictures I’ve seen.”

Rachel’s job involves supporting families when a significant adult has cancer. “The families I work with have been really supportive – lots of the children have been inspired to get involved and have taken part in a sponsored bike ride to raise funds for me which is so heartwarming,” she continued.

“I recently realised that I’ve known and supported more than 90 families through the loss of a much loved adult over the last four years.

“Each of those families has at least one child. I am swimming to raise awareness of all these fantastic children, and to remember their much-loved family members and the parents who haven’t had the chance to see their children grow up.”

She also hopes to highlight the Cancer Focus Family Service, adding: “It’s invaluable to the adults and children who use it. When an adult in a family is diagnosed with cancer, it affects everyone,” she said.  “We help cope with the disruption to ordinary family life and try to minimise the long-term impact on children’s emotional well-being when a mum, dad or close family member has cancer.

“We discuss your individual needs with you and arrange whatever support is best for your family. This might be one-to-one support in your home or at our service centre in Belfast, or at our family groups or bereavement groups.

“We also have a six-week programme for primary school aged children to help them understand cancer through the use of art, craft and play,” she added.

To help Rachel reach her target of £2,000 you can make a donation on her Just Giving page at If anyone is interested in finding out more about the service please contact Rachel on 028 9068 0772 or email rachel


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