Vital support to get young people with disabilities fitter in 2017

32% of Britons made a New Year resolution in 2016 with 33% of respondents wanted to get fitter, and it looks like the same trend will continue for 2017.

However, for young people with disabilities, it’s not as simple as buying some new trainers or a budget gym subscription; buying a specialist sport wheelchair can cost as much as £5,000.

As a result, Wooden Spoon is leading a national campaign – Supporting Tomorrow’s Superstars.

The national children’s charity aims to raise enough money to buy a rugby wheelchair for every wheelchair rugby club in the UK and Ireland, to encourage more people with disabilities to get into wheelchair rugby.

The Government states that there are currently over 10 million disabled people in the UK – 770,000 of these are children. Only 18% of people with a disability are taking part in sport compared 39% of non disabled people. The costs involved are a major barrier for young people and their parents.

However, wheelchair rugby offers people with a disability the opportunity to play full contact sport, no matter what their age, ability or gender. It was one of the most popular sports at the last two Paralympics in London and Rio. Tickets for the wheelchair rugby in London sold out in three days.

Steve Brown, Former GB Wheelchair Rugby Captain said: “Investing in children and young people is not about giving them something to do at the weekend. It gives them confidence that flourishes into every part of their life.”

Gemma Lumsdaine, a wheelchair rugby player for Caledonian Crushers Wheelchair Rugby Club said: “I get a real buzz from playing wheelchair rugby. It’s really helped with my self confidence, personal development and general wellbeing. It would be great if more young people with disabilities got the opportunity to play.”

The Disabled Living Foundation estimates that it costs three times as much to raise a disabled child as it does to raise a child without disabilities. Many of the families Wooden Spoon have spoken to have cited costs as a major barrier for getting children and young people with a disability into sport.

Gemma’s Mum, Sally adds: “Nothing could have prepared me for the news that Gemma had cerebral palsy.

“As Gemma grew up, it didn’t become easier either. She was the only pupil in school with a physical disability. This often made Gemma feel isolated and upset. Throughout her childhood, she rarely came into contact with other wheelchair users which only added to her insecurity.

“But as soon as Gemma joined her local wheelchair rugby club, not only was she meeting other people in her situation, she was around people she could aspire to be like, and that changed everything. Gemma has become so much more confident since being involved and now looks positively towards her future.”

Jai Purewal, Director of Rugby & Community Investment at Wooden Spoon said: “Our vision at Wooden Spoon is that every child and young person, no matter what their background has access to the same opportunities – through the power of rugby.

“This life-changing campaign will provide young people with disabilities better opportunities to play wheelchair rugby and help positively transform their lives into 2017 and beyond.”

Wooden Spoon aims to raise £95,000 which will enable the charity to buy and distribute 19 wheelchairs to clubs across the UK & Ireland. Zurich Insurance PLC is sponsoring the campaign.

There are a number of options to support the campaign, buy a wheelchair or make a general donation.