Dad’s 102-mile coast-to-coast challenge for Deaf Academy

Robert Harris with his son Sam

Robert Harris with his son Sam - Credit: Robert Harris

A Devon dad is taking on a 102-mile coast-to-coast challenge to support young Deaf students. 

Robert Harris is gearing up to take part in the 2021 Devon Coast to Coast Challenge, which take place on Saturday, July 24, to raise funds for the Deaf Academy, now based in Exmouth. 

His son Sam started at the Deaf Academy in 2009 and initially wanted to raise funds for the relocation but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the event. 

Now he is looking to raise funds for the academy’s continuing work. 

He said: “I wanted to take on a challenge to say thank you to the Deaf Academy.  

“I originally planned to raise money to help build the new Deaf Academy in Exmouth, but due to the pandemic the event was postponed from 2020 to 2021.  

“It is amazing that the New Academy was able to open its doors during this time and Sam is loving the new facilities, but I know that some areas are not quite finished.  

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“The academy also has on-going plans to continue to develop the support they give, so every penny I raise will go towards improving facilities for the students and future projects to support the young Deaf students." 

Robert knows all too well about the specialised education and support that Deaf children and young people need to thrive.  

Working abroad at the time, his son Sam was only three months old when he was diagnosed with meningitis, and Robert received a phone call that would change the families lives. 

Robert said: "I was working away at sea at the time and losing the phone signal I spent the hardest few days of my life, unable to fly home and not knowing whether my son was alive or dead.  

“Thankfully Sam was a fighter and pulled through but when we got him home we realised that he didn't respond to sound." 

Sam had survived meningitis but was diagnosed with being profoundly deaf. He received cochlear implants in both ears in 2010. 

Sam started at the Deaf Academy (then The Royal Academy for Deaf Education) in 2009, a year before his implants.  

To donate, visit

To donate directly to the Deaf Academy or find out about ways to get involved visit 

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