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Take the plunge, literally. Make it your mission to give back

Leighanne Smith


Having struggled to stay committed to a form of exercise for the previous 12 months, I figured Swim22 could be 'something new' to try.


Swimming the width of the English Channel in 3 months

It was a Saturday afternoon on 21 December 2019. I was aimlessly scrolling through my Instagram account, waiting for my fiancé to return from work when a sponsored Swim22 post appeared. Given it was in support of Diabetes UK, it captured my attention. I clicked the sponsored post to find out more.

Having struggled to stay committed to a form of exercise for the previous 12 months, I figured this could be something new to try. I have had personal trainers, I have trained weights, played tennis, kickboxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu and attended group training sessions.

Using any excuse I could find, I struggled to stay committed long term. Although I was taught to swim in primary school, it’s not something I have pursued since then, unless absolutely necessary. The most activity I would do in a pool is to climb on to a lilo, usually with a drink in hand, relaxing somewhere hot.

I was interested in taking part in Swim22 as it was the perfect opportunity for me to give something back. A decade on from diagnosis I found myself still taking all the support I could get from Diabetes UK, never talking openly about my condition to help or inspire others. I continued to hide my diabetes and never taking the opportunity to give something back.

The New Year was on the horizon, I had just faced the most challenging six months of my business life and was feeling under pressure, stressed and lacking self-worth. Unsure about what happens next I found myself in a mental space I was not familiar with. I researched the benefits of swimming on my physical and mental health and decided to take the plunge.

Diabetes UK and me

Being an advocate

That was it, I am committed and I am ready. I immediately felt more optimistic for the New Year. My fundraising target is £2,200.00. My aim is to create as much exposure as possible so that I can become a positive advocate for those living with diabetes.

In my experience you'll feel so much better about yourself and your condition or even those close to you who live with it. All too often I hear people complaining that we still, after years do not have the tools to manage this condition more effectively or have a cure, but the more sponsorship we raise for Diabetes UK means more money for life changing research. I feel very optimistic about the future care for people living with diabetes, what a time to be alive.

I would like to create as much exposure as possible so that I can become a positive advocate for those living with diabetes. I want to inspire as many diabetics as possible, as in my experience it can sometimes feel like a very lonely, misfortunate place to be. I am hoping that by taking part in Swim 22 I can calm my anxiety, lose weight and improve my HbA1c.

I have found the fundraising pretty easy. Initially I did set a target of around £200 then I quickly erased it as I knew I had set the bar too low. I do believe that people are keen to help support a good cause so I knew I could raise so much more.

With this in mind I set a much more inspiring target of £2,200. I rolled out an initial sponsorship opportunity to a few small businesses. I was specific in the amount they would each contribute and in return promised them exposure via a towel (which I had made at my own expense) taken with me to every swim, frequent mentions via my Instagram and my LinkedIn pages. I own a small insurance brokerage firm so the businesses mentioned above and are supporting me are in fact existing clients of mine. I limited this opportunity to 10 companies donating £100 each, they went very quickly so that got me to my first £1,000.

One of my sponsors is the owner of a successful mixed martial arts gym and I have asked whether they would do a raffle amongst their members offering their own merchandise as a prize. I am sure I will continue to find new ways and will not stop until I reach my goal.

The emails from the Swim22 team are really helpful and include useful fundraising tips. I would encourage every participant to take the time out to read these.

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