Charity Registration number: 265498
After 3 years on hold, Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Buckinghamshire was able to welcome back over 100 disabled children to WheelPower’s National Junior Games this month. The annual event has been taking place since 1980 but unfortunately, the games haven’t been possible in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been proven that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on disabled people (Activity Alliance’s latest research) making the return of events such as the National Junior Games, now more important than ever.
Margaret Ingram CEO of The Kentown Wizard Foundation:
“The National Junior Games is an extraordinary event that enables young disabled people to discover a passion for sport in an inclusive and welcoming environment. After two very difficult years, the return of the National Junior Games has been a cause for celebration and we are proud to have offered our support. The ethos of the Games, to “Achieve Your Personal Best” aligns very closely to our own ethos and we hope that for the young people who took part, the benefits are long-lasting and maybe even life-changing. Above all, we hope they all had a lot of fun!”
One school that certainly did have a lot of fun was Highfurlong, a 2-19 special school in Blackpool that has been coming to the games for over 15 years. Head Teacher, Neil Oldham Said:
“We brought a mixed range of children with us to Stoke Mandeville Stadium this year to experience and try lots of sports, and they absolutely loved it. When I arrived one of the students came up to me and said ‘hi boss I’m having the best life!’ The whole term is planned around coming to the National Junior Games because it takes the buses out and changes the staff ratio. So it’s the first thing that goes in the calendar. Our students get to work with incredible coaches and see other children who are similar to them from all over the UK.
There’s a real social aspect as our children never get to do a residential experience or even a sleepover. They are nervous at first but when they are in there living it they are loving it. From our school, it’s essential that the support is there and for the pupils to be part of something like this is life-changing.”
Matthew, 14, was one of the children from Highfurlong who attended. He said:
“I’ve not been before and it’s going very good so far. I’ve been here all week and I’ve tried ALL the sports! My favourite has been basketball because you get to use a wheelchair which I’d only used once before. Playing sport is quite euphoric and it helps you to learn about teamwork, and I think other children like me should come to the Games as they would find it quite fun.”
The event hosted 115 disabled children all raring to try their best at a number of sports including Basketball, Tennis, Power Chair Football and many more. Over the 4 day period and within the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement itself the children personified the motto of the games, “to achieve your personal best” all while inspiring each other and the family members, teachers and carers who had come to support them.
Martin McElhatton OBE WheelPower Chief Executive:
“After the last few years, it was emotional to see our National Junior Games back at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and I can honestly say that it made me so very proud. Disabled children have been hugely impacted by the pandemic and thanks to the wonderful support we received, we were able to host the Games again after a two-year break. We are thrilled to be able to provide this life-changing event for young disabled people including individuals and SEND schools like Highfurlong School from Blackpool.
The Games not only improve health and wellbeing but instill confidence and provide a fun, social experience for those taking part in the 20 plus sports and activities aiming to achieve their ‘personal best’. WheelPower is keen to tackle the inequalities disabled people face in accessing sport and physical activity and the Games will make a real positive impact to address these.”
WheelPower will soon be announcing the date of the 2023 National Junior Games which you will be able to find over on their website www.wheelpower.org.uk