In the spring of 2017, a Rotary club spotted that there were virtually no sporting opportunities, with the exception of swimming, for those with disabilities in their town.
Leighton Linslade Rotary, led by Richard Johnson, were determined for that to change, so launched the Yes We Can project later that year.
A key focus for the team was creating a diverse and affordable sporting programme, catering for the needs of a range of disabilities that would be sustainable enough to support Leighton Linslade and the surrounding area for a minimum of three years.
Now roughly halfway through that time period, Yes We Can, working with local partners, now provides seven sports or activities; swimming, football, archery, tennis, bowls, dance and hockey to dozens of children, adults and their carers.
Yes We Can has also had excellent support from the local Mencap group in the area.
“We’re so proud of their achievement” commented Mencap’s Dani Harding. “The way this project has changed the lives of our local disability community and their families has been remarkable. Let’s hope it becomes a benchmark for others.”
All the sports have, in their own way, been a success in engaging a diverse range of participants, with ages ranging from six-years-old, right through to 58-years-old.
This success has led to the club winning the Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland Community Service Cup for 2018/19, which recognises Rotary club who have established innovative projects or schemes to benefit their local community.
The way this project has changed the lives of our local disability community and their families has been remarkable.”
The project’s coaches have seen incredible results. “2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the Otters Swimming Club and we’ve been delighted to join the Yes We Can initiative, with several of our swimmers now able to access other sports and build their confidence further” said swimming coach Christine Munford.
“We have had some significant milestones in the pool, with one individual passing a cumulative total of 10,000 metres swum in the last year. Other individuals are regularly clocking over 150 metres in the main pool.”
Archery coach Sue Matthews added: “The archery group has been running since October 2017. We have had a core group of people who turn up each week and we’ve seen amazing progress.
“Everyone who shoots has become stronger and more co-ordinated with each session. Carers have been taking part too.
“It is really gratifying to see these individuals growing in confidence, working together and supporting each other. It has been a good bonding experience and great fun.”
For dance coach Jade Cook from Yes We Can partner Spectrum Performing Arts, the joy has been seeing participants grow and develop through their new groups.
“With help from Yes We Can we have set up two new additional groups, Sensory Movers and Adult Movers.
“These fun dance clubs are accessible to all and the participants have learnt lots of different routines and moves in a very short space of time.
It has been an absolute joy to watch the dancers grow in confidence and start to form friendships within the group.”
It is really gratifying to see these individuals growing in confidence, working together and supporting each other.”
Looking to the future, partners and sponsors have stepped forward to join Leighton Linslade Rotary in providing medium-term stability for the programmes, including automotive part company, FAI, who has undertaken a three-year sponsorship deal with £10,500.
Yes We Can’s partners include MK Dons Sporting and Education Trust, Silver Arrow Archery, Otters Swimming Club, Spectrum Performing Arts, Leighton Buzzard Bowls Club, Linslade Tennis Club and Leighton Buzzard Hockey Club.