Hastings men swim from Ireland to Scotland to help a little girl get a new wheelchair

Hastings man Paul Harris and a group of friends took on the gruelling North Channel Swim to support a disabled nine year old St Leonards girl

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 9:35 am
Updated Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 10:30 am

The North Channel is a swim of approximately 21 miles from Northern Ireland to the coast of Scotland.

Paul, who is the founder of charity For Kids, explained: “Summer Finlay was born with spina-bifida and hydrocephalus which has left her wheelchair dependant. She had major surgery in January 2020 to fully reconstruct her bladder and is currently on the waiting list for spinal surgery to correct her scoliosis.

“Summer doesn’t let this stop her and lives life to the fullest, competing in multiple sports from dance to badminton, cheerleading to WCMX. This is her biggest and favourite sport which consists of riding her wheelchair around a skatepark and performing stunts! Summer would like to work her way up to competition level and possibly even Paralympic level.

Paul Harris swim 1 SUS-210727-105218001

“Summer is in need of a new everyday wheelchair as she has outgrown her one and this new one will be more supportive of her back and posture as well as lasting her well into her teens.”

Paul was joined on the swim by Hastings man Sean Collins along with Steve Henigan and Gary Wraight, from Esssex.

When they arrived in Ireland, Paul decided to test the water and said: “The moment I entered I was taken back just how cold I felt. I immediately thought ‘Ouch! This is going to be a tough and challenging swim’.”

The swim was delayed due to conditions. Paul said: “We had left on Thursday, July 15 and heard from the pilot and was under the impression our swim would start Saturday morning between 1am and 6pm That soon changed as the pilot informed us that our swim would be put back to possibly Monday or Tuesday due to the weather which had been forecasted.

Summer Finlay SUS-210727-113351001

“I have heard stories of how challenging the North Channel is to swim across, not only is it a rough bit of water, but it’s also very cold and not to mention the lion’s mane jellyfish .

“Tuesday morning we were up at 5am to load the minibus (Thank you to Kileys Karpets) and set off at 5:30am. The conditions were rough and unpleasant – after 30 minutes Sean came face to face to the dreaded lion’s mane jellyfish and got stung across his arms and legs. I eventually came face to face with the lion’s mane which gracefully passed by underneath me. The weather seemed to ease up around 2pm, the sun burned through the mist and the sea seemed to settle down and allowed us to finish the swim.”

So far the team have raised more than £500.