A GROUP of fundraisers had an extra special cheerleader as they made waves at Sale Leisure Centre last week.

Schoolchildren and parents from Tyntesfield Primary School organised a swimathon at the leisure centre on Monday November 2 to raise money for FOP Friends of Oliver.

Seven-year-old Tynesfield pupil Oliver Bedford-Gay suffers from Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), a rare disease that causes muscle to turn to bone.

Around 20 children and some parents completed the relay swim over the course of the day, and the swimmers smashed their target of swimming the channel (22 miles) by completing 1897 lengths.

CBBC presenter Katie Thistleton, who competed on Celebrity Mastermind in aid of FOP Friends of Oliver, joined supporters poolside.

Katie said: “It was lovely to attend the swimathon. I am seriously impressed with all of the children who took part and managed to swim the channel. I’m always happy to support such a worthwhile cause and great team; FOP is a condition so many people know nothing about so it is important to raise awareness.”

Amy Whyte, one of the mums who organised the event, said they were overwhelmed by the determination of the swimmers. One nine-year-old completed 128 lengths and one mum swam 320 lengths over four hours.

“They were absolute stars we are so proud of them,” added Amy. “We couldn’t believe the number of supporters, the atmosphere was amazing. The children can’t wait for their next challenge and are busy planning what to do next.”

As well as smashing their target distance, the swimmers broke through their fundraising target, with more than £3,000 raised.

The money will help fund pioneering medical research into finding a cure for the progressive disease.

Oliver’s mum Helen, an internationally recognised expert on FOP, thanked Amy and Tessa Brannan for coming up with the swimathon idea and Sale Leisure Centre for their support.

“There are so many worthy causes out there and we are overwhelmed with the care and support we have received from people, both from this event and over the past few years, who are helping us find a cure for our little boy,” added Helen.

“The researchers are getting so close to finding this life changing drug for Oliver and his friends and we wouldn’t be in this position without the continuing support of our friends and family.”

To learn more about FOP Friends of Oliver, visit fopfriends.com.