In November the AYL team attended a Get Active Sports Event by WheelPower, at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. I can honestly say that I was really apprehensive about attending this experience, especially after reading the event time table. Consequently, I went with a very closed mindset to prevent disappointment, and simply told myself that anything I did get to try would be a bonus. I can now say that was really silly of me, because the whole idea behind this event is to show everyone how sports can be adapted. But for some reason, I just assumed I still wouldn’t be able to partake in most activities. Oh how wrong was I! People of all ages and abilities were getting involved in a large variety of sports – from Archery to Boccia! I really didn’t expect to have so much fun, or to be able to participate in many different sports.
The day was split up into 6 activities, with a lunch break in the middle. Not only did this set up provide the participants with plenty of rest opportunities in between activities, but it also allowed the staff to spend quality time with each group. Each trainer took us through the rules and aims of the game, before spending some one on one time with each participant to work out how the sport could be adapted to their needs. It was fascinating to see how a group of people with such a wide range of abilities, could find a way to play sport together. Each activity was adapted around your needs l, and I never felt pressured to do anything I didn’t feel comfortable enough to try.
It was clear by lunch time that everyone was enjoying the event, as the centre was bustling. Everyone was having a lot of fun and for many, it was the first time that they had discovered a fun activity they could independently enjoy, despite being dependent on a wheelchair. It was clear that I wasn’t the only person rolling away from Stoke Mandeville, feeling really motivated to find a group closer to home that I can get involved with! As someone who used to dance 5 times a week, I miss the buzz you get when working with your team. So thank you WheelPower for putting on such a fantastic event!
The next part of this post gives you a little insight into the background of this brilliant charity, before telling you how you can get involved next time!
As you might have guessed, WheelPower’s headquarters are based in Stoke Mandeville Stadium, which is known as ‘the home of wheelchair sport.’ It is where the Paralympic movement was born. The Stoke Mandeville Games were founded by a German Neurosurgeon who specialised in Spinal Cord Injuries. Guttmann recognised how sport could help injured soldiers build up physical strength, as well as improve their mental health. Therefore, on the 28th of July, he organised the first Stoke Mandeville Games. All of which, coincided with the the London 1948 Summer Olympics. Then eventually they were renamed the Paralympics!
WheelPower was then formed in 1972 and developed a range of sports activities to help encourage and promote wheelchair sport. A whopping £10.3m refurbishment in 2003 transformed the historic centre into an advanced leisure complex. Meaning WheelPower had full access to a high quality venue with bespoke facilities and equipment for wheelchair users. They now have links with up to 35 different sports, including hand-cycling, wheelchair rugby and fencing (to name a few). You might be wondering how WheelPower are in the position to offer such services, but they are master fundraisers! From large annual events, to small fundraisers. If you fancy getting involved in sport or fundraising then take a look at their website – there is LOADS going on!
Over 62,000 disabled people were supported by WheelPower in the last year. Whether it was to take part in a team sport like wheelchair basketball or an independent sport like archery, there really is something for everyone and the physical and psychological benefits are incredible.
If you fancy taking part in the next Wheelpower Get Active event, simply click HERE to obtain more information. They are honestly a great way for adults and children who live with a disability, to discover sport in a safe, welcoming and friendly environment. It’s also a great way to make new friends, improve your health and have fun! So please let us know if you are thinking about signing up, as we would love to see some of you there!