The family and friends of devoted sisters who tragically passed away within 10 weeks of one another are preparing to ‘take the plunge’ this Cancer Awareness Day to raise money in their memory.
Newry sisters Mandy Carlisle and Vanessa Kimmins-Dillon, who were described as ‘incredibly’ close, each fought and sadly lost their battles with cancer in 2023, with Vanessa passing away in October and Mandy just a few short weeks later in December.
Speaking to Armagh I, Mandy’s niece Sarah Hillen describes the sisters’ incredible relationship: “They were both once-in-a-lifetime kind of people. You would just never get another version of them. They were absolutely best friends and both were completely mental!
“There was always talk that we had to do something for both their memories because they were always so close.”
Sarah credits Mandy’s sister-in-law, Karen Carlisle – an avid cold-dipper – with being the brains behind the breath-taking challenge.
Said Sarah: “Karen does cold water dips and she had suggested maybe we could do a cold water dip and do it in their memory on Cancer Awareness Day. Mandy and Vanessa were both absolutely mental so we know they would have loved it!”
Together Sarah and Karen set the plans in motion but Sarah emphatically states that “it hasn’t just fallen on me and Karen to organise everything. Absolutely everyone has got involved in some way.”
In honour of their memory, Mandy and Vanessa’s husbands, children, friends and extended family will gather on the shores of Templetown beach on Sunday, February 4, where they will then take to the freezing waters for as long as they can bear.
Sarah, who will be completing her first ever cold-dip, quipped: “We will be on the beach for 12pm and into the water for 12.30pm and probably out again at about 12.31pm!”
And she’s not alone. Sarah reckons that out of the 40 confirmed attendees an estimated 90% will be new to the experience.
Whilst the family and friends are welcoming members of the public to participate – if they are brave enough – they are urging caution.
“Anyone that also wants to dip we are kindly asking for a £20 donation but if you just want to come and watch there will be buckets for anyone who wishes to donate any amount. But please remember your safety is up to yourself.”
Just eight days ago, Sarah set up a GoFundMe page to collate funds with the humble initial target of £500. The page, at the time of writing, has now surpassed £5,100.
The funds received will be split equally between two charities which are to be selected by the sisters’ loving husbands, Micheal (Mandy) and Brian (Vanessa).
The event will be a true reflection of the fun-loving, family-orientated women they both were.
As Sarah said: “They will be looking down laughing at us!”
If you wish to make a contribution to the GoFundMe page you can do so here.