WheelPower is the national charity for wheelchair sport based in Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, just a few minutes drive from my home. Last year I entered the Mix96 Tour De Vale 2014 to raise funds for WheelPower on a 15k charity bike ride, and this year I am attempting the 50k route because I enjoyed it so much. I was invited to see how WheelPower put the donations to good use and meet the children who benefit from their help and support. In our everyday life it’s easy to take for granted our good health, energy or mobility and overlook the simple blessings we all have that so many others may never, or will never again experience again. We can all open our eyes to the world around us and give something back to help others.
Sadly every year thousands more men, women and children become disabled, whether it’s from birth, because of an accident or even an illness; many people find themselves needing the use of a wheelchair which can be quite a shock emotionally as well as physically whilst requiring adaptations to daily life. When mobility changes, life undoubtedly changes and day to day activities and hobbies must either be adapted or given up, with something as normal as riding a bike, kicking a football, walking the dog or climbing the stairs being seeming impossible.
WheelPower have the facilities and equipment to enable disabled people to play sport and lead a healthy, active lifestyle, to keep sporting interests alive and discover new hobbies to become passionate about, raising the bar and supporting new skills. WheelPower team up with a variety of organisations in order to provide a wide selection of disabled sports from archery to athletics, bowls, cue sports, fencing, hand cycling, powerlifting, shooting, skiing, ice sledge hockey, table tennis, tennis, wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. Not only is sport exciting but it also provides a sense of physical well-being, increased self esteem, confidence and social opportunities for a more independent and better quality of life. Unlike everyday life, children with disabilities needn’t feel like the odd one out in the group as everybody is equal and there are activities for every need.
Almost 60yrs ago Dr Ludwig Guttmann started using sport to rehabilitate patients of Stoke Mandeville hospital with spinal cord injuries, which he then established a competition to coincide with the 1948 London Olympic Games. Today the Stoke Mandeville Stadium is the national disability sports centre and home of wheelchair sport for training and events for disabled men, women and children from all over the country, with many going on to represent the UK in the Paralympics. I was honoured to attend the WheelPower Time To Shine event which is hosted over one weekend each year in April at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium to bring together disabled people from all walks of life to enjoy sport in an enthusiastic and non-judgemental environment. And it touched my heart incredibly to see what the charity provides and how it helps so many.
As a single mother to my 7yr old daughter and 2yr old son, I do everything in my power to make my children happy, to make them feel included and give them confidence in their abilities. More often than not when my children try something new they start off hesitant, reluctant and don’t believe that they can do it first time round despite plenty of encouragement. Dashing down a rugby pitch, racing on a bicycle or free-styling in a dance group can be incredibly daunting and physically challenging for children, let alone attempting it with a disability. Yet what I saw at the stadium made my hair stand on end, as each and every person taking part had the biggest smile on their face and pure enthusiasm for what they were doing. From spinning in circles during wheelchair basketball to shooting arrows and breakdancing, the sense of pride, achievement and relief to feel included was tangible and I didn’t see a second of hesitation all day. I was humbled to experience such heart warming sporting events and inspirational volunteers.
In 2014 WheelPower introduced 231 disabled children to their sport camps, with 85 recently paralysed people attending the Inter Spinal Unit Games. 38,536 disabled people took park or trained at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium and £34,000 was raised at the Tour De Vale bike ride by the public. 566 sports wheelchairs have been provided since the launch of Wheel Appeal and 111 young disabled people attended the 2014 Time To Shine Event. From visiting Time To Shine this year it’s clear to see what a fantastic opportunity it is for all who attend and how WheelPower provide such a worthwhile and precious service to so many throughout the year. I hope that you may join me in supporting WheelPower, together we can make such a difference to so many. You can donate to my charity cycle via my YouCaring page here.
WheelPower, Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Guttman Road, Buckinghamshire HP21 9PP
Registered Charity Number: 265498