Tiny but mighty fundraiser Ivan Burt-Smith finally reached France at 6.20pm on Tuesday night, after his epic 22-mile swim across the English Channel – in the safety of Selkirk swimming pool.
The eight-year-old Selkirk cub swam 1,416 lengths of his local pool to help raise money for a new slate roof on the Royal Burgh’s scout hall, which is estimated to cost £25,000.
After seven weeks of swimming approximately 55 lengths a day three to five times a week, after school, with his proud mum Jan patiently ticking off laps on a clipboard, Ivan completed his last 20 lengths to the cheers of his sponsors and supporters – and the media.
“Every time I talk to anybody, I get tears in my ears: I’m bursting with pride,” Jan Burt-Smith told TheSouthern, as she watched her son on the finishing stretches.
“He’s been very excited, very hyper, all his school friends have been cheering him on, a lot of the cubs have been coming to see him, he was just raring to go – as ever!”
She praised her son’s tenacity, saying: “It’s amazing, the fact he’s kept doing it for so long. He didn’t, after two or three weeks, say ‘I’ve had enough’.
“There was one day when the pool was closed, and he was absolutely gutted, because he couldn’t swim. He’s been really committed and determined, and just gone for it. He’s like a wee terrier.
“Thank you to everyone who came along to cheer Ivan on, he was really chuffed that everyone could make it and swam extra fast with the excitement of it all.
“They had to stop him from swimming the final length or he would have finished too soon for the time slot on the telly!”
Speaking after finishing his epic challenge, and robed in a Union Jack flag, Ivan admitted to slowing only a little near the end.
“I was getting tired,” he said. “I’ve swum 20 [lengths] today, and in the whole I’ve swum 1,416.”
Refusing to rest, he added: “At the moment I’m going to go to cubs, but I’m probably going to go swimming more often now.”
Graham Coulson, acting scout leader of the Selkirk Scout Group, added his pride at the young cub’s feat.
He said: “It’s a great achievement for someone who’s only eight years old to swim that length.
“In fact, we have a surprise for him, because we have an award we give for endeavour and commitment, so we’ll have a presentation at the scout hall at cubs tonight, with a big bit of cake. It’ll definitely be a big surprise for him.”
Describing Ivan’s cause, Mr Coulson said: “Work can only start on the new roof when we get all the funds in place. The total bill will be around £25,000, of which we have to raise £16,500. We already have just under £4,000 that we’ve raised ourselves, plus we’ve got Ivan’s swim, and we’ve got various applications in to different grant-making bodies.”
Ivan’s four figure contribution is still rising, and there’s still another month to donate to his Just Giving page Ivan’s Channel Swim, or text IVAN77 £5 to 70070. You can also fill in a sponsor form in several Selkirk shops.