50 beaches for teacher's 50 years

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Leigh Burrell wants her Swim50 mission to inspire her pupils and many other people to try something new and push themselves. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Leigh Burrell wants her Swim50 mission to inspire her pupils and many other people to try something new and push themselves. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Auckland primary school teacher Leigh Burrell wants to show her pupils that they can do anything if they put their minds to it.

And if she can do it, then they can too.

The Mt Wellington 50-year-old, a teacher at the local Stanhope Rd School, is on a mission to raise better awareness of water safety while also raising funds for the Cancer Society.

Mrs Burrell aims to swim at 50 different beaches and has dubbed her mission Swim50.

The mother of two adult sons began on October 9 last year, at Auckland's Mission Bay, and has since been to beaches as far north as Maraetai and on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and south towards the Bay of Plenty, as well as a few East Coast beaches.

She swam at her 32nd beach yesterday, at Narrow Neck on the North Shore, and plans to complete her task by the end of next month.

"I was thinking about water safety ... kids not being able to swim, schools taking out their pools and last year, when there were so many drownings," Mrs Burrell said.

"That's how I came up with Swim50 - swimming at 50 different beaches, one for every year of my life, spreading the water safety message and raising funds for charity."

Mrs Burrell said she was inspired by a story she heard about an 80-year-old man who had decided he wanted to play bowls for 80 days - one for every year of his life.

"I thought, 'If he can do that, I can do something too'."

Mrs Burrell spends about half an hour to an hour swimming at each beach and sometimes travels to several in one day.

She is sometimes accompanied by members of her family and friends and she has also made up T-shirts with the slogan "Swim50" to help raise funds for the Cancer Society.

Her aim is to get $5000 for the charity.

Mrs Burrell said she hoped what she was doing would inspire people not only to donate to the Cancer Society, but also to be more aware about being safe in the water.

She also hopes others are inspired to challenge themselves, after seeing what she is doing.

"I'm not a competitive swimmer ... It's not just about me.

"It's about the wider idea that if people can look at me and say, 'Wow, if she can do that, then I can do this', then that's a whole new level and that's very cool."

- NZ Herald

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