Local Taunton based dad, Robert Harris, 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 says “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 at Southampton children’s hospital, at just six years old.


Sam started at the Deaf Academy (then The Royal Academy for Deaf Education) in 2009, a year before his implants. The Deaf Academy provides specialist education and residential care for Deaf children and young people, aged 5-25, from across the UK.


Robert says “I cannot thank the Deaf Academy enough for how much they have helped Sam in life. Their specialist support has changed his life forever and given him the confidence to grow into the young man he has become.  I was so proud when he won student of the year in 2019.”


“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. 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.”


The 2021 Devon Coast to Coast Challenge will take place on Saturday 24th July. The route will see Robert leaving Minehead in Somerset at 7am and taking on the ups and downs of Exmoor and the meandering Exe Valley before arriving in Dawlish between 10 and 11pm.


The Deaf Academy is a registered charity. They aim to provide the very best specialist education and residential care to Deaf children and young people and rely on fundraising to provide the very best facilities and life experiences possible, enabling Deaf children and young people to thrive.


You can support Robert by visiting his fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/robert-harris36 or to donate directly to the Deaf Academy or find out about ways to get involved visit www.thedeafacademy.ac.uk