Jenny, Matt, Gwen & Hope at Dorchester Tea event
For most people the perfect start to their birthday would be a nice lie-in, perhaps even breakfast in bed, however Jenny Foster, who will be turning 40 tomorrow, has decided she wants to spend her birthday taking on the epic open water challenge – Swim Serpentine in aid of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, who support her daughter Gwen.

Jenny, from Cheam, is set to take the plunge and swim the two-mile course around the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, and in doing so will also pick up the much sort after London Classics Medal – awarded to participants who have run the London Marathon, cycled in Ride London 100 and swum the Swim Serpentine.

Jenny explained:

“I’ve always liked swimming and used to swim with my dad but the thought of open water swimming seemed a bit daunting, it wasn’t until I found out about the London Classics, saw this year’s Swim Serpentine was set to take place on my 40th birthday and that Shooting Star Children’s Hospices was one of the charities you could do it for – I thought this is meant to be!”

No stranger to taking on a challenge, Jenny completed the first-ever Ride London 100 in 2013 and last year took on the hottest London Marathon on record, making her eligible for the London Classics Medal.

Jenny taking on the London Marathon 2018

Jenny continued:

“The London Marathon came at the end of 10 months of challenges which my husband Matt and I had taken on to raise money for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices for Gwen. The weekend prior to the London Marathon I’d run the Brighton Marathon so to take on another marathon was a real struggle and didn’t think I was going to finish it – but I did! I am hoping that Swim Serpentine won’t have quite as many challenges.”

Jenny and her family have been supported by Shooting Star Children’s Hospices for two and a half years since her daughter Gwen was 9 months old. Gwen, now three-years-old, has a life-limiting condition that is so complex she requires round the clock care. Gwen regularly attends the charity’s Hampton Hospice, Shooting Star House for day visits and respite care. The respite care offered by Shooting Star Children’s Hospices has allowed Jenny and husband Matt a chance to go away on holiday for the first time since Gwen was born.

Gwen at Dorchester Tea event

Jenny said:

“Matt and I were able to go away for a few days to Las Vegas earlier this year. It’s our go-to place and where we got married so it holds a very special place in our hearts. However given the complexity of Gwen’s condition and how fragile her health is, it’s just not been possible or fair to leave her with family members to look after. So having the respite care from Shooting Star Children’s Hospices means we were able to have a much-needed break, spend time together and completely relax knowing Gwen was safe and cared for at the hospice, safe in the knowledge she’s having an amazing time there too.”

Gwen playing at Shooting Star House, Hampton hospice

“I have used the counselling service which helped me massively – particularly with how to cope with things and how to view it all. My step-daughter, Hope, has also attended the Siblings’ Days which has given her a chance to express her feelings and be with other siblings in a similar situation.”

“I’ve done pool swimming and a few open water swims at Divers Cove in Godstone, but as I haven’t been very well recently I haven’t been able to train as much as I’d of liked. However, as a supported family and seeing the day to day challenges my daughter and other children at the hospice face I know I can do this swim – even if it takes me hours – so be it.”

“I’ve really enjoyed swimming in the beautiful surroundings and have found it quite exhilarating to be one with nature, so I do think I will carry on doing it – weather dependant of course!”

Jenny & Gwen at Tower Bridge during London Marathon 2018

“My dad and sister are coming down from up North to watch with Matt and my best friend. She has cheered me on both for Ride London and London Marathon so said she couldn’t miss this!”

So what is the best way to celebrate completing a momentous swimming challenge and receiving the London Classics Medal all on your 40th birthday – eating and singing of course!

Jenny concluded:

“Afterwards the plan is to go out for some lunch before a whole group of 18 of us are out for the evening for some food and karaoke!”

It’s certain that Simply the Best should be top of the playlist!

To find out more about Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and how they help support families like Jenny’s visit www.shootingstar.org.uk and if you are interested in taking part in Swim Serpentine 2020 or another challenge for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices visit www.shootingstar.org.uk/get-involved/events/