Earlier today, popular TV presenter Davina McCall was pulled from Lake Windermere at the end of a mile and a half long swim, as part of an ongoing fundraising challenge for Sport Relief. You can see the Daily Telegraph's video here but be warned - watching this I was distressed; firstly by concern for Davina who was limp from the cold and exhaustion, and then by the intrusion as people around took pictures and media followed while she was carried up to the nearby hotel to be cared for.
Although, purely out of respect for Davina, I then donated to the Sport Relief cause, I have to say that I am now wondering whether I should have done so.
I am full of questions. Firstly I hope Davina is fine. But what I am thinking is this - Davina may be in the middle of an incredibly selfless and brave challenge but is it a good example to set? Are we asking too much from celebrities today? Are charities so strapped that they feel forced to push people past their limits in order to reach their fundraising targets? Who thinks this is a good idea? When do we stop - when someone nearly dies, or does? Also who makes the most money here - Sport Relief or the media who will secure higher viewing and readership figures with this type of story? I think it's time this debate is opened up.
Let's face it, most of us donate to a particular charity because we have a personal connection with the cause (perhaps through a family or friend, if not our own experience), because we have a chance to do so spontaneously or because the charity communicates well about how the funds are used and we empathise. Generally giving money in all of those contexts results in a feel good factor.
And here is the rub, I don't feel good right now. I actually feel pretty awful. Davina's reassuring tweet actually makes me feel more anxious for her - she's still going to get on a bike?
Yes Davina may have signed up for this but seeing her close-to-lifeless body being dragged from a lake - is it really what the public wants (echoes of Princess Diana's final taxi ride, anyone)? Shouldn't charities have a stronger duty of care, and be stronger by saying no? Shouldn't the Telegraph and others have stepped away sooner? It's time for a change and that change can't come soon enough, if you ask me.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
Feel better soon, Davina!
[Post blog note: Sport Relief tweets show Davina on her bike and pushing on so she's hopefully feeling a lot better.]