Surf’s up at inclusive beach
COAST lovers of all abilities will be able to enjoy action-packed seaside days out in Northern Ireland after Wooden Spoon Ulster funding helped create the country’s first fully-inclusive beach.
The children’s charity of rugby donated £18,800 to the Mae Murray Foundation to allow it to provide a raft of equipment to allow people with different ranges of mobility to make the most of visits to Benone beach in Limavady.
The money, which builds on seed funding from Children in Need, has helped to provide specialist equipment, including hoists, changing benches, beach chairs, walkers and floating chairs – as well as Northern Ireland’s first surfboard suitable for wheelchair users.
The inclusive beach, which was made possible through Mae Murray Foundation’s partnership with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, made its debut during an all-ability family fun day.
Mae Murray Foundation founder Alix Crawford, whose daughter Talia has quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, explained: “There are many people, young and old, who have never felt sand running through their fingers or experienced the thrill of being in the sea, due to the inaccessibility of beaches.”
Wooden Spoon Ulster’s assistance has also helped to fund special matting which provides a platform for easier unloading from vehicles and transfer into beach equipment, offering wheelchair users the chance to have the seaside experience that so many of us take for granted.
Alix added: “We hope to purchase further matting in the future, which will eventually allow even more mobility on the beach.
“We have also developed a relationship with Longline Surf School at Benone which has been very supportive in helping families to use the surfboard for wheelchair users, one of only two of its kind in the UK.”
Alix set up the Mae Murray Foundation as she doesn’t believe families of those with additional needs should have to make compromises. The charity was set up in memory of Alix’s late mother, Mae Murray, whose estate provided the money required to establish the Foundation.
She continued: “It is sad that, in this modern era, barriers to joining in still exist for so many people and their families. It is our vision to help create a society with true participation for all in leisure and social settings, regardless of age and ability.
“We are working closely with other Councils and have plans to ensure that there are at least two other fully inclusive beaches in Northern Ireland by the end of 2018.”
Sarah Webb, Wooden Spoon’s acting CEO, said: “Through the power of rugby Wooden Spoon funds life-changing projects across the UK and Ireland to support children and young people with disabilities or facing disadvantage.
“Our vision is to give every child and young person, no matter what their background access to the same opportunities. The Mae Murray Foundation’s project at Benone beach is a great example of this in action and we are delighted to have been able to support them.”
The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Joan Baird OBE, added: “By working in partnership with the Mae Murray Foundation we have ensured that people of all abilities can fully experience a day at the beach, both in and out of the water. The completion of this project shows our commitment to creating a society which is fully inclusive for all.”