Eskbank woman making a splash for charity in memory of her tragic son Christopher

Donna Nelson, from Eskbank is to swim a 20km relay in St Mary's Loch, where her son's ashes are scattered.
Donna Nelson, from Eskbank is to swim a 20km relay in St Mary's Loch, where her son's ashes are scattered.

The brave mother of Christopher Nelson, who sadly passed away in 2015, is to undertake her biggest challenge yet by getting back in the water for the first time since his death.

Christopher (24) tragically drowned after falling into a canal in Amsterdam while on holiday in the Dutch city with his fiancé.

Now, his mother Donna (49), who cannot swim and who has had an immense fear of water since his death – is set to swim a 20km relay with friends and family in St Mary’s Loch, where her son’s ashes are scattered. She previously beat her fear of heights to do a free fall swing in his memory.

Donna, who is currently learning to swim by attending adult swimming lessons with instructor Jen Henderson at Lasswade Centre, said: “I’d not been in a swimming pool since Christopher died.

“Even when I stand in the shower, I can’t put my face under the water. There hasn’t been a morning in the last four years where I’ve stood in the shower and not thought about what happened to my son.

“It has taken me weeks to put my face under the water at my swimming lessons.

“I didn’t understand how quiet it was under there – it makes me think, ‘was it quiet for Christopher?’ I hope this challenge will help me find peace somehow.”

Donna is fundraising for Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC), which supports the Royal Hospital for Sick Children – a charity close to the family’s heart.

She added: “Christopher was a mad sports person as a little boy, so we were on first name terms with the A&E staff at the ‘Sick Kids’ as he had so many sports-related injuries.

“He was very athletic and used to really inspire me to do things I would never do.

“He encouraged me to do the Couch to 5K and used to send me music to run to. He was my inspiration for most things in life.

“He would never believe that I would take swimming lessons, and especially not that I would swim in open water.”

The grieving mum and her family and friends – also known as ‘‘Donna’s Prosecco Posse” or #teamnelson – have so far raised over £30,000 for ECHC by completing a series of fundraising challenges since 2015, including Tough Mudder and a 200-mile cycle.

Although each new challenge is harder than the last, Donna says she channels her son to give her the strength to complete it, and is determined to do so again as she and her family and friends continue their impressive fundraising efforts in memory of Christopher.

Team Nelson previously took on the Highland Fling Bridge Swing in Killiecrankie, Perth and Kinross in 2018.

She said: “When I complete my challenges, I’m always sobbing my eyes out but also have such a sense of relief.

“Afterwards, I always look up to the sky and say ‘love you son’ and have a moment with him.

“I couldn’t think of a bigger challenge than this one but I’m doing it for Christopher, so that his legacy and his name will live on forever.

“By hook or by crook – I will cross the finish line.”

Rachel Baxter, director of fundraising and marketing at ECHC, said: “We are enormously grateful to be Christopher’s family’s chosen charity. Donna is hugely admirable and inspiring and we wish her the very best of luck with this new challenge.

“The money they are raising will have a huge impact on the lives of children, young people and their families and make a phenomenal difference during their time in hospital.

“We cannot thank the family enough for their incredible continued support.”

Donna and Christopher’s family and friends will be swimming the 20km on Saturday, May 16, in St Mary’s Loch, in the Scottish Borders, supported by Steven Nelson (no relation) founder and manager/activities co-ordinator of Beyond Boundaries East Lothian and volunteers, who have very kindly agreed to be the Water Safety Crew on the day.

To support Donna and those taking part in the challenge, donations can be made by clicking here.