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The Sunshine Campaign launches in York

After the tragic drowning of Sonny Ferry, the Sunshine Campaign aims to raise £45,000 for a new rescue boat in York

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The parents of Sonny Ferry, the teenager that drowned in River Floss last year, have reached over half of their target to raise £45,000 for a new and improved rescue boat for the York Rescue Charity.

The Sunshine Campaign was set up days after Sonny’s tragic death. He drowned after a night out in the city where it is thought that he slipped and fell into the water while looking for his friends by the riverside. The next day his father Steve watched his body being pulled out from the water.

Since then, the Sunshine Campaign has touched the hearts of people across York and has inspired over £25,000 donations on their Gofundme page. Grace and Steve Ferry have dedicated their time to hosting a series of events in order to boost donations. Last year, they held events in Ketton Sports and the Community Centre in Rutland, receiving a number of generous donations from local businesses, the Ketton Church and Ketton Darts team.

Unfortunately, the sad case of Sonny Ferry is one of many. In an interview with the York Rescue Boat’s water incident managers, Matty Sellers told Nouse that “on average we respond to 38 call outs per year. In 2019 we were involved in 142 incidents with 6 tragically involving a fatality. While there is no specific cause relating to drownings in York, last year 55% of our incidents involved mental health and 17% involved alcohol.”

The aim of the Sunshine Campaign is to raise over £45,000 to cover the cost of a desperately needed and fully kitted rescue boat. The ‘Humbler Destroyer 7m’ will be much bigger, with a new engine that’s more fuel efficient and will require less maintenance than the current one. This will save the charity money by reducing running costs, which is important given that fuel is one of the charity’s three biggest costs.

The new boat will include a new radio system to enable better communications and a faster arrival time, which is something that is essential for a person in cold water where every second counts. Also, a new 3D scanning sonar will be fitted to the patrol boat to speed up the detection of a casualty who has submerged under water. This new and improved technology will mean that information is quickly shared with other emergency services in order to ensure quick responses from the emergency team.

Kate and Steve Ferry have said that “The current boat in use is woefully inadequate. If someone is pulled from the river, the boat is not even large enough for the rescue team to perform potentially lifesaving procedures. The kit on the old boat does not give the volunteer rescuers the best chance of pulling a casualty from the water even if the casualty is just metres from the rescue boat.”

The Sunshine Campaign is expected to have a huge impact on the charity. Sellers told Nouse that “we are aiming to replace the boat within the next five years as that is the time estimated to raise the money”. Currently, the York Rescue Boat consists of 24 operational team members, with another 21 going through training along with 15 fundraisers. However, the River Rescue Team is entirely run by volunteers and nobody is paid.

As well as efforts to kit a new rescue boat, the charity has made a huge impact through their Youth Education Programme which aims to educate youths of the dangers of open water. In 2019, the charity visited 42 schools, groups and colleges, delivering water safety education to over 2833 people.

The Sunshine Campaign is still far from the goal of £45,000. If you would like to support the York Rescue Boat charity to ensure that no more precious lives are taken from the dangers of open water, then please donate to

The Ferry family ask people to remember that “Our sweet precious boy is safe now, no longer is he lost in the dark, he is no longer frightened, he is no longer so very cold, or in any pain, he is no longer screaming for help, and he is no longer gasping for air, it is for every other child, every precious person still breathing we need to do this.”

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