On Thursday 3 September, 23-year-old Nathan Abbott – from Littlehampton in West Sussex – will attempt to swim 68 miles around the coastline of the Isle of Wight, to raise awareness and money for the international children’s cleft charity, Smile Train.
Completing the challenge will make Nathan only the 5th person to swim around the Isle of Wight and the youngest person ever to successfully make it.
“This Isle of Wight swim – which I am coining the ‘Smile of Wight’ – is the largest and most meaningful challenge I have ever undertaken, made more difficult due to the reduced training time caused by Covid-19,” he says. “I work full time in between studying, so training has had to fit around this – come rain or shine. I’m currently swimming the equivalent of the English Channel every week!”
Nathan’s support for the cleft community stems from his own personal experience of being born with a severe bilateral cleft lip and palate. As a child, he required numerous surgeries, and was bullied for the way he looked, spoke, and ate.
Having experienced first-hand the medical care that children born with a cleft have access to in the UK, as a teenager Nathan decided to turn his attention to others around the world, who are not as fortunate, by supporting Smile Train – a charity which provides the training, funding and resources needed to empower local medical professionals so that they can offer 100% free cleft surgery and comprehensive cleft care to children living in their communities.
“Ultimately, fundraising saved my life and I will endeavour to impact the lives of as many people around the world as I can. For every £150 raised, we can cover the cost of a cleft surgery for one child in need, and I want to cover as many as I possibly can,” he says.
At the age of 16, Nathan created Freestyle 4 Smile, a non-profit fundraising movement that would allow him to raise funds and awareness for Smile Train through challenges and group events.
He also underwent a series of his own personal fundraising challenges to raise money for the charity: swimming from Littlehampton Pier to Worthing Pier and back (a distance of around 15 miles); taking part in The Race Against Tide (another 15-mile river swim); completing a three-day swimathon (a total of 23 miles); and organising numerous charity galas.
As a result of these incredible efforts, Nathan has raised tens of thousands of pounds for Smile Train, earning himself an Ambassadorship with the charity – as well as being recognised by Pride of Britain as Regional Fundraiser of the Year in 2019.
Ian Vallance, Director of Smile Train UK, says: “Nathan’s commitment and passion for Smile Train is absolutely outstanding and never-ending. He is an extremely tenacious, kind, and approachable young man, who never ceases to amaze us with his fundraising efforts and capabilities.
“He is a huge inspiration to other who are born with a cleft, not just in the UK but also globally – and we are privileged to have his support!
“All monies raised by Nathan will allow Smile Train to continue creating more forever smiles for children across the globe.”
Nathan’s biggest challenge yet is his upcoming swim around the Isle of Wight, which is predicted to take three days to complete.
To support Nathan and Smile Train and learn more about the Smile of Wight challenge, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fun….