HUNDREDS of brave swimmers donned fancy dress and raced into the North Sea in four separate Boxing Day dips in South Shields.
Supporters of good causes in South Tyneside turned out in their droves to plunge into the freezing waters, including Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall who was also celebrating her 22nd birthday.
Jade took part in her first ever Boxing Day dip dressed in a Christmas tree costume for the charity Cancer Connections, in Harton Lane, South Shields, of which she is a patron.
The Little Mixer led the dippers into the sea at Little Haven.
She said: “I always come to watch but I’ve never done it myself before. “This time, I’m not working so it doesn’t matter if I get a cold. It is for such a worthwhile cause and everyone is enjoying themselves and getting into the spirit of things.”
It was an emotional day for Jean Costello, whose 22-year-old son Stephen Heslop took his own life on Boxing Day 2007.
The South Shields grandmother was wearing a T-shirt with Stephen’s picture and took part in the Cruse Crew’s dip at Sandhaven beach - raising money for the bereavement support group.
She said: “I’m very, very emotional but very proud as well. “I’m turning a negative into a positive, raising funds for the charity.
Former mayor, Coun Ernest Gibson, was dressed in a black suit, and his partner Patricia Ridley - wearing a tiger onesie - took part in three dips.
“It’s been freezing but we’ve had great support from South Tyneside,” Pat said.
Coun Gibson added: “It’s been great to see all the people here and it definitely took the cobwebs off after Christmas.”
Cancer Connections co-founder, Deborah Roberts said they had been going seven years.
She said: “Each year we get bigger and bigger. We have 200 people taking part today this year is the biggest and best.”
Julie Maguire , 39, works for sponsor Biffa in South Shields, said: “We are sponsoring the event for the first time, but we have been doing work with the charity throughout the year. This is the first time I have done the dip myself. It is very cold.”
Another dip, held at Sandhaven beach was in aid of St Clare’s Hospice in Jarrow.
Fundraiser Colin Powell said more than a hundred people were taking part and he hoped to raise £7,000 for the hospice.
He said: “This is all about raising money for the hospice and the work we do with those terminal and life-limiting conditions.
“It is so nice to see that so many have signed up, and we’ve had even more people registering today. We initially had 80 people, but it’s turned out to be well over a hundred. It’s been great to see.”
A fourth dip took place at Sandhaven, in aid of Alex’s Angels, set up by throat cancer sufferer Alex Turner, 15, to raise funds for the Teenage Cancer Trust