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Mum who was terrified of water launches month-long RNLI swimathon

Lifeboats News Release

Milena Smith from Birkenhead had never set foot in a swimming pool before her daughters were saved by the RNLI. She is now facing her ultimate fear to raise funds for a charity close to her heart.


Milena outside Calday Grange Swimming Pool

Milena has pledged to swim 20 lengths every single day throughout June and is calling on people to dig deep to support her fundraising efforts in aid of the RNLI.

The 37-year-old is certain had it not been for the RNLI crew at Barmouth, her girls would not be here today. Eldest daughter Mabel, 12, was swept away by the tide during a family holiday last year and had drifted a quarter of a mile further out to sea on a fast outgoing tide. She was dramatically rescued by the RNLI crew. Her younger sister Elsie, 10, had instructed her sister to float on her back after hearing the RNLI advice during a swimming lesson.

One month after the girls were rescued, Milena took a brave step to learn this vial life skill by taking her first ever swimming lesson at Caldy Grange Pool. She is keen to raise awareness amongst adults that people of any age can learn how to swim.

She says:

‘After the incident, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how helpless not being able to swim made me feel. There are many adults who think they`ve missed their chance of learning to swim as a child, not realising that they can learn at any age.

‘I promised the crew I would learn how to swim and have kept to my word. RNLI crews are constantly putting themselves out of their comfort zones and I wanted to do the same to show them just how much they are appreciated. The first few lessons were tough and I struggled just to get in the pool, but after six lessons, I swam my first length. I’m so incredibly grateful to my teachers for their kindness and support, they have been brilliant.

‘I just hope by doing this I not only raise funds for the RNLI, but also raise awareness of the importance of making safety a priority when people visit the coast. I’ve lived on the Wirral for 16 years and never given the RNLI a second thought until our family needed them and now I want everyone to understand their role and listen to the RNLI’s advice.

‘Had Elsie not have heard the RNLI’s float advice in one of her swimming lessons and being able to instruct her sister that day, I really dread to think what may have happened. It’s what kept her alive until the Barmouth RNLI crew arrived.’

Milena has been hard at work training, swimming 20 lengths five times a week ready for the launch of her challenge on 1 June, 2023. She has set up a Just Giving Page and is asking people to dig deep to show their support.

Sophie Wood Community Fundraising Manager for the Wirral says:

‘What Milena has achieved is simply incredibly. After the most traumatic experience, instead of shying away from her fear, she has faced it head on which is absolutely inspiriting. We all wish her well with the challenge and would welcome any donation however small which will help our crews bring more people safely home to their families this summer.’

Milena is also one of the RNLI’s newest volunteers on the Wirral and hopes to not only support fundraising, but also spread the word about water safety and the RNLI’s Float to Live advice as a water safety volunteer.

To donate to Milena’s challenge please visit: Milena's fundraiser for RNLI - Royal National Lifeboat Institution - JustGiving


Milena at the pool where she is in training pictured with Sarah Clarke and Jeannie Stanley from the Calday Grange Swimming Pool.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.