FRIENDS of a girl who passed away from illness have completed 150-mile row down the Thames to raise money for a charity that combats the disease.

Friends of the family of three-year-old Freya Gerrish, of Slough, who died of meningitis in February this year, have undertaken a seven-day rowing expedition in her memory.

The rowers, Oliver Downs, Bruce Osbourne, Stephen Bevan, Mick McCormack and Paul, Sean, Jake Maher, all from Slough, set off on May 31 at Lechlade, Gloucester. They passed through Windsor and Datchet to finish at 4pm on Wednesday at Teddington Lock.

Mr Downs, 37, of Mill Stream Lane, Cippenham, said: “None of us had every rowed before, so it was quite a challenge. It was especially gruelling on the last two days.

“Freya’s grandfather, Paul Gerrish, came to row the last 23 miles. We passed a boat called ‘Freya’ on the way, which was quite poignant.

“Along the way we were camping together, there was a real community spirit.”

The group is still to tally up the amount of money they have raised. Mr Downs said: “Three of the guys work at Eton College, and have had quite a lot of sponsorship – there’s been a collection bucket in the foyer too. Our online fundraising page has collected about £3,700 - we’re aiming for £4,000 and we’re pretty sure we will reach that amount.

“I’d especially like to thank Kris Cruisers, in Datchet, for letting us store our boats for free.”

The charity they are supporting, Meningitis Now, expressed its gratitude for their efforts. The charity works to help fund research and vaccination efforts to combat the deadly disease.

Leah Wynn, Meningitis Now community fundraiser, said: “We’re so grateful to Oliver and the crew for putting on this fantastic fundraiser.

“As a charity that receives no Government funding we rely entirely on the generosity, energy and initiative of our supporters to raise the vital funds we need to carry out our lifesaving and life-changing work.

“Their efforts will make a real difference to those who are at risk from meningitis and those whose lives have already been changed forever because of it.”

You can donate to the fundraising effort at