Michael Cullen - The first years of fundraising

My name is Michael cullen aka speedomick, I am a charity fundraiser, I began raising money for charity after getting the bright idea that I was going to run a marathon even though I had no experience of running and I had not even attempted a 5K run before.

I told my wife about my idea and she just replied 'ok I better put the kettle on then'.  I was 45 years old and I had never taken part in any kind of physical challenges before.  Following this bright idea I took part in 2 marathons and 5 triathlons and managed to raise thousands of pounds for various charities along the way.  Unfortunately I had to stop running because of an injury.

Not being one to give up I needed to come up with a new challenge and a way to continue fund raising.  It was then that I came up with the great idea that if my legs won't let me run I will have to use my arms and that I should swim the English Channel.  I could swim, but I had never had a swimming lesson in my life, it just wasn't the done thing where I came from. I told my wife that I was going to Swim across the English channel and of course she said "I better put the kettle on again then".

I joined the serpentine swimming club in Hyde park where the members had vast experience of long distance open water and channel swimming. On my first day I was asked 'are you training for anything in particular?" and I replied, 'yes I am going to swim the channel', and they replied, 'how exciting, have you done a long distance swim before' and of course I replied No.  I looked at the swimmers as they looked open mouthed at each other with one of them saying 'have you thought this out' and me replying, 'well I've booked the boat!',  which was true I booked the boat before I booked a swimming lesson .

My reasoning around this was that if I book the boat then I have a goal, I had a date and needed to get on with it , otherwise I believe that at some point throughout the 2 years of training you needed before taking the challenge of swimming the channel I would have had a million more excuses to stop the training or to put it back to next year and the next and never do it, besides at the time I had a few savings and it cost a small fortune for some one like myself to book the boat £3000 to be exact. I spent my holiday money on a feeling that I could swim all the way across from England to France because my little stunted legs wouldn't allow me to run far anymore, I'm only little see. Despite constantly being told that I couldnt do it and that I was mad I carried on training never the less and I even joined the Red tops swimming club. Even though I had a shaky start at the serpentine swimming club after that day I had nothing but support and encouragement as I did at Red tops.

My day to swim the Channel was was the 26th August and when a few weeks before I had a friend in the woodlands hospice who had passed away due to cancer and so I decided to Fundraise for this wonderful charity. It was too dangerous to swim on the 26th August due to the weather so all swims across that day were cancelled and I was happy because on that day I wasn't feeling it .

I was then allocated the 6th September and after arriving at Dover harbour and I stood on a beach st 7am waiting for the signal from the skipper of the boat to start swimming, I stood there on my own battling fiercely with my doubts and fears and with a toot of the skippers horn I walked into the English Channel in my speedos, I had never felt so vulnerable in my whole life . It was 7am when I started swimming and at 11pm 15h 54min of non stop swimming I was standing on French soil.

The non swimmer - the man who had no chance, full of doubts and fears of failure, 15h 54min, those doubts and fears where crushed, slapped down with my little flailing arms, my little arms served me well.

The Birth Of Speedo Mick

My fundraising target was £5000 of which I had raised £4000, and as grateful as I was to all the of the donators I needed to reach my target. I came up with the idea of going to my beloved Everton FC in my speedos, Goggles and swimming hat to raise the rest of my fundraising target.  I think this was just as scary as my channel swim, for I was about to let 30000 Everton Fans see me in just a pair of speedos and goggles.  

I went to the next game and watched the first half of the game fully clothed wondering if I would have the courage to do it but the thought of reaching my target for the Woodlands hospice speared me on . My heart was pounding so fast that you would have thought I was jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, which may have been easier to survive than walking out at Everton's Goodison park wearing nothing but a pair of speedos.

Ten minutes had gone by in the second half and I jumped up and went to strip in the toilet, my heart was in my mouth as walked over to the stairwell and I saw two Bobbies on the stairs and the Steward, I brazenly walked past them all like I didn't care as  they just stared at a man in his swimming costume at a football game . I took my everton scarf from my shoulders and I held up high as I sang  everton songs , I had written "Channel swimmer on my stomach in blue paint and sang from the top of voice "and if you know your history it's enough to make your heart go wooooohhho.  To my suprise I was applauded by all the everton fans who where generous enough to give a chorus of wolf whistles all I could see where smiles, it could have gone either way you see, I could've been booed and had tomatoes thrown at my head but that was the risk I took that day.  Fans approached me thrusting £5 £10 £20 notes and £1 coins into my hand as my family had explained why I was in my swimming trunks, and that is why I love the city of Liverpool, where generosity knows no bounds.

With a fist full of Dollars I was ushered away to get dressed by the stewards I came back and I watched the rest of the game. That night I raised a couple of hundred pounds in 10min and I was well on my way to reaching my target so I went back the week after and the week after that and although I was never publicly backed by Everton FC I knew that they played a massive part in the rest of my journey by allowing me to all of the games in my swimming trunks fundraising for charity and although I have never been told this I always suspected that that decision may have actually had something to do with our chairman Bill kenwright who had been diagnosed with cancer  himself .

The next season I went to every single game, home and away in my speedos, which now had Everton emblaoned on the rear, goggles and hat.  I also walked from London to Bournemouth for the sixth round of the FA cup in my pants and then from Goodison park to Wembley in my pants to watch Everton v Man U in the semifinals of the FA cup.  In ten days I managed to raise £25,000 which was donated to The Woodlands Hospice who looked after a great friend and his family who had beendiagnosed with cancer .  I also walked from Buckingham palace to Anfield for the Derby and of course that was also in my speedos. I went right through November December January spending 2 hours out side of the grounds and 90 min inside watching the game which is a very very long time in the midst of winter in my speedos Goggles and hat.  All of the away fans where absolutely fantastic at every ground , as soon as they were aware that I was doing this for charity began to donate, the footballing community at its best, that is what I have seen in the last 2 and half seasons.

The Donations

I am very happy to say that we raised £93,600,00 for various charities including The Woodlands Hospice, Charlie's Chance Foundation, Bradley Lowery Fight, Simon Community, McMillan, Julia's House Children's Hospice and Clatterbridge, but it was all worth the time and the freezing temperatures as after the first full season of fundraising in my pants I was honoured to be nominated at the Echo Awards and then I was absolutely overwhelmed to be shortlisted for the Pride of Britain, and then my creme de la creme of nominations was for the Everton fan the year, It was the Everton fans who voted for me to be fan of the year and that is why it means that little bit more to me. 

The Future

Follow my story and future fundraising events by following me on Facebook and twitter or of course by clicking on the Events and Charities links above