THE local community joined together on Sunday (January 6) to remember a 13-year-old boy and raise money for a research fund set up in his name.

Around 650 people, including Olympian Thomas Haffield and the Wales Women’s Lacrosse squad, took the plunge for a special 12-hour swimathon at Monmouth School for Girls.

Supported by Cancer Research Wales, Swim for Tom was part of a major initiative to raise £100,000 towards a dedicated fund in the name of Tom Walker, a pupil at Monmouth School for Boys, who died unexpectedly of leukaemia last June.

And the event was a huge success, as adults and children of all abilities showed tremendous spirit to swim a total of 39,532 lengths (619 miles).

The original target for the event had been 17,200 lengths – equivalent to double the distance of the River Wye.

However, the swimmers eclipsed the initial target by lunchtime and then proceeded to swim the length of the Severn, Usk, Monnow and Conwy.

The young children at Monmouth Schools Pre-Prep and Nursery held their own event, totalling an impressive 688 lengths towards the final total.

The swimathon was organised by Tom’s sister Holly, fellow Monmouth School for Girls’ pupil Katie Cameron, and teacher Lou Scott.

Katie said: “Everyone did their little bit and it was an incredible day. We had more than 600 swimmers and 70 volunteers, which was more than we anticipated. It was a day we will never forget.”

Tom’s parents, Debbie and Tim Walker, said: “It was an astonishing and special day for us. It was fantastic to see so many people of all swimming abilities and ages do their best.

“So many volunteers gave up their time to help and donations have more than doubled our initial target – so thank you to everyone.

“All money raised will go to a dedicated fund named after Tom that will be used by Cancer Research Wales to fund research into leukaemia.”

Tom was a keen swimmer for Monmouth School for Boys and Monnow Swimming Club and was also learning to row on the River Wye.

Last month, the Walker family christened a new rowing boat, called The Otter, in memory of Tom at Monmouth School for Boys’ Rowing Club.

Bucket collections and fundraising activities held during the Swim for Tom event, as well as a collection by NFU mutual, raised a total of £5,240 in notes alone.

The organisers have yet to count the coins but the Walker family estimates that the money raised on the day, together with cheques received and donations made on a Justgiving page, will exceed £14,000.

Online donations can still be made via