Making phone donations from an armchair may be the most many people do for good causes, but John Heagney, Nisa-Today's commercial director for retail store development, prefers a more active approach.

He's one of a host of food industry stalwarts who take part in Caravan's annual Windermere Row, which falls on 18 May next year, and celebrates its 25th anniversary. It's one of the many fund-raising events organised by the grocery benevolent fund on behalf of those in the industry who have fallen upon hard times. The Windermere Row challenges teams of volunteers to row the 10-and-a-half miles across Lake Windermere to raise funds.

Braving the Lake District's wind, rain and cold is not everyone's cup of tea, but Heagney insists it is great fun. The fact that he's been involved in the event for 19 consecutive years bears testimony to that.

"I thoroughly enjoy it," he says. And so does his family. "Most of my kids have rowed it and this will be the third year that my wife Amanda has been involved," he adds. He's keen to stress that the event isn't just for competitive types. "There are two levels - the super-competitive young people and the rest of us, the majority." He doesn't do any formal training for the event, he says, adding that Caravan has always avoided describing it as a race. Although there are prizes for coming first, there's also a booby prize for coming last and other novelty prizes.

The day provides its own particular brand of entertainment, says Heagney. "About 10 years ago it was so windy that the police stopped people before they got half way. We battled against the elements and it took a long time just to get that far. We were soaked and frozen stiff and it took us a long time to defrost."

On another occasion, a team persuaded suppliers to sponsor them to tow a string of inflatable ducks - but the resistance proved too much and they had to be cut loose. And the row is not the only attraction. "There's a function in the evening," says Heagney. "It's a fantastic night for a mix of all ages and there's always a great band."

Caravan's Windermere Row raises thousands of pounds, so it's well worth the effort, he says.

"It's a fantastic, worthy cause and a good weekend. Caravan does deserve the support and it benefits substantially."