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Water-loving Henri Hawkes-Reed has become the first official Heidi’s little Hero – and he has the T-shirt to prove it!

Ten-year-old Henri from Bishop’s Cleeve, is the first child to complete his Heidi’s Heroes Swim Card – a loyalty scheme run by the charity Heidi’s Heroes that encourages children to improve their swimming at Leisure@Cheltenham.

The card gave Henri five, free swims and to mark his achievement in the pool Henri, who has Down syndrome, was presented with his own Heidi’s Hero T shirt from charity founder Paul Wood.

He also received a second Swim Card giving him a further five free swims – this time at Sandford Park’s Lido in Cheltenham and with the chance to swim for a free Heidi’s Heroes Hoody.

Henri, his mum Anita, and sister Isobel, 8, met Paul at Leisure@Cheltenham, for the official T-shirt presentation. A clearly delighted Henri immediately donned his new T-shirt and modelled it for Leisure@ staff, including his swimming coach John Luke Waterhouse.

Anita said: “Henri absolutely loves the water, but before doing the Heidi’s Heroes Swim for Safety programme he only swam with floats. After the course we ditched the floats and Henri can now swim 10 metres and we can’t keep him away. It was easy to fill up the Swim Card because Leisure@Cheltenham has become our second home.”

Henri and his classmates at Bishop’s Cleeve Primary School were among more than 100 primary school children from Cheltenham and Tewkesbury area who received the loyalty cards after taking part in the annual Heidi’s Heroes Swim for Safety campaign in March.

The swimming programme for nervous young swimmers was funded by Heidi’s Heroes and organised by the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury School Sports Network. Each day nine and ten-year-olds from 15 primary schools received intensive, half-hour coaching at Leisure@Cheltenham and Tewkesbury School pool by qualified swimming tutors.

Each group had the same tutor throughout the week and the low ratios of instructors to children, ensured pupils progressed quickly – often getting one-to-one support.

The lessons helped non-swimmers to take their first strokes in the water and encouraged nervous pupils to gain confidence and swim competently.

Anita said: “The Heidi’s Heroes Swim for Safety course is ideal for children who are nervous in the water or scared of getting in. Being in the pool every day means they get used to the water, gain confidence and retain the information and progress very quickly. It seems a very effective way for them to learn to swim.”

Henri now has his sights set on completing his five free swims at The Lido in order to ‘win’ his free Heidi’s Heroes hoody.

Paul Wood, Heidi’s Heroes’ founder, said: “Henri’s progress is typical of many children who take part in the Swim for Safety programme. They arrive feeling sick with fear, but after five days in the pool with some great coaches, they are swimming and water confident. It’s an immensely satisfying event and we are delighted that Henri is doing so well. We can’t wait to see him again to give him a hoody!”