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Nairn wild swimmer Leanne Okane will this month complete the 365-day Sea Swim Challenge in aid Mikeysline

By Donald Wilson

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Leanne Okane who is doing a 365 day open swimming challenge. Picture: Callum Mackay
Leanne Okane who is doing a 365 day open swimming challenge. Picture: Callum Mackay

A NAIRN wild swimmer will this month complete a 365-day Sea Swim Challenge in aid of the mental health charity Mikeysline.

Auxiliary nurse Leanne Okane has braved the freezing temperatures of the Moray Firth to reach her goal and has raised a four-figure sum which will go towards the cause set up in 2015 to help support young people with emotional and mental health difficulties.

Leanne embarked on the challenge following the death in August 2020 of 18-year-old Reece Spark from Nairn.

“I’m friends with Reece’s mum Doreen and my son John was one of Reece’s best friends,” she said. “Reece’s death devastated everyone who knew him and I decided to do the challenge to help Mikeysline in his memory.

“John plays for Nairn County’s reserve team and Mikeysline is the club’s charity partner.”

Leanne will complete the 365-day challenge on January 22.

“Many times I have asked myself why I’m doing this,” she admitted. “Then I think of Reece and his mum and with the help of a group of friends I’ve been able to keep going.

“I’ve fitted the swimming in between shifts at my work at Nairn hospital and other commitments.

“My husband Damien has been a fantastic support. He doesn’t swim and won’t even go in for a paddle. But he always makes sure the car is kept warm for me when I get out.”

Leanne has sometimes braved sub-zero temperatures and occasionally wild seas.

“But safety has always been uppermost in my mind when I enter the water,” she said. “I know the tides well and always ensure safety first. It’s always been a bit of a juggling act fitting in the swimming between work, family and horses but it’s for a good cause.

“It’s the support of my swimming friends, Damien and of course the memory of Reece that’s helped.”

One of the highlights during her challenge was teaming up with Cath Pendleton, the first woman to swim in the Arctic circle.

“It was while on holiday in Wales I met up with Cath,” Leanne recalled. “She joked that there were a lot of man-eating crayfish where we were swimming and we had great fun.”

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