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February-March 2015 | Features

Giving back self confidence

Giving back self confidence

We took the opportunity to speak with WheelPower that loves sport and are dedicated to providing opportunities for disabled people to live healthy active lifestyles.

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We took the opportunity to speak with WheelPower that loves sport and are dedicated to providing opportunities for disabled people to live healthy active lifestyles.

The Guttman Legacy

Over 65 years ago, Dr. Ludwig Guttmann began using sport as part of the rehabilitation of spinal cord injured patients from World War II at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Guttmann established a competition for patients that coincided with the 1948 London Olympic Games. Since then the

Paralympics, or “Parallel Olympics”, has become the pinnacle of international competition for disabled athletes.

Today, Stoke Mandeville Stadium is the national disability sports centre and home of wheelchair sport and WheelPower, providing accessible facilities for training and events for disabled men, women and children from all over the country. Besides these facilities, WheelPower also offers a comprehensive programme of sporting opportunities and sports wheelchairs for young and newly disabled people.

Rotary gets the Wheels Turning

Rotary Clubs across Great Britain and Ireland have become increasingly involved with WheelPower through its Rotary Wheel Appeal initiative. This helps a disabled child or adult to take part in sporting activities by funding the special wheelchairs needed for different sports such as basketball, where a streamlined lightweight chair is required to turn on a sixpence very quickly, or rugby, where a much heavier and robust chair is needed. Such specialised wheelchairs come at a cost and Rotary helps to fund them.

One person to benefit is Jessica who has cerebral palsy, which has affected her left side mobility. Jessica was introduced to archery when at a WheelPower junior camp. She had tried several sports previously, but decided archery was best suited to her.

WheelPower gave me the confidence and belief that I could still participate and enjoy my sport.”

However to become a wheelchair archer Jessica needed a special wheelchair and so she applied to the Rotary Wheel Appeal fund to help with the cost of a new chair. Jessica and her new chair attended a Junior Camp and she has since gone on to be selected by GB Archery and is on the World Class Talent Identification Programme.

Jessica commented, “The WheelPower Junior Programme gave me the confidence and belief that I could still participate and enjoy sports. My Wheel Appeal chair has made a huge difference to me because now I can compete in my favourite sport at the highest level. I was able to represent Great Britain at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) Games in August and won gold – thank you WheelPower!”

Future’s Looking Bright

The future of WheelPower is looking bright. The goals in the past two years were to continue the momentum of the Paralympic games of 2012 and maximize the benefits of sport for disabled people at the birthplace of the Paralympic movement.

In 2014 the pilot project in Spinal Units commenced, where WheelPower’s Physical Activity Advisors have been providing expert advice and support to patients in the early crucial stages of rehabilitation following a spinal injury. In the last year the Paralympic Legacy project ‘Motivate East’ has also seen a large increase of people from East London, with a range of abilities take part in sporting activities, from paralympic prospects to beginners.

Not only does sport develop confidence and improve fitness it is also a great way to have fun and make friends. The benefits, in terms of physical and psychological improvement are tremendous, whatever a persons age or ability and more people are beginning to take part in events.

It is estimated that there are 750,000 wheelchair users in the UK and many more have a disability which means they may need to use a wheelchair to play sport. WheelPower have come a long way from turning the concept of Dr Ludwig Guttman into a reality all those years ago and his legacy still lives on. However we still have a lot to do and WheelPower is well placed to develop sport for disabled people even further.

Rotary Magazine