This story is part of 30 Under 30
Ellie was just 18 years old when she set up CP Teens as a way of reaching out to other young people who feel a bit lost and isolated. The response was fantastic and CP Teens has grown into a vibrant online community. Now, at 21, Ellie continues to pretty much single-handedly run this amazing organisation.
As part of 30 Under 30, she talks about why she set CP Teens up, their progress so far and how the 2012 Paralympics inspired her to make sport accessible to more disabled people.
When I was younger, people at school all wanted to be my friend because I’m a little bit different and children quite like that. But as I got older, by 14 or 15 they didn’t want to be with me anymore. At the time I didn’t really realise I’d become socially isolated because I was concentrating on my studies, but when I left school my friends all went off to university and forgot about me.
I felt like there was nothing out there for people like me, socially and I didn’t have the confidence to go out and get a job. So I decided to set up CP Teens. I wanted to connect other people who, like me, just felt a little bit lost and to tell them that they’re not the only people out there who feel isolated.
The response was amazing
At first I just set up a Twitter account because I was a bit bored! I thought it was going be something I would get tired of after a week and never log back on, but I woke up the next morning and people like Francesca Martinez and Sophie Christensen were followers!
Other young people were getting in touch saying “I’m a teenager too and I feel the same way, it’s so nice to find someone else.” I got so many emails like that I couldn’t believe it. So I just kept going. I set up a website and then a Facebook page and it just kind of grew.
I just thought it was me feeling that way so it was really nice to know I was helping other people through my own experiences. It made me feel less alone. I’ve met some really cool people too and I even hear from people overseas.
Reaching more people
On CP Teens there’s an online service so people can connect and chat. We have social get-togethers and we do a ball every year. Teenagers and young people from across the UK come together. It’s really nice. We have a RaceRunning club which is really good and we also have a partnership with Accessible Derbyshire. They do loads of accessible activities – canoeing, climbing, you name it.
I get a lot of parents [contacting me] who have young children who’ve just been diagnosed so I’ve set up another part of CP Teens called CP Tinies and CP Tweens. It covers 0 – 13 years and children can get involved too. I want it to be for everybody.
In my gap year I got into Paralympic sport and it just changed my life so much. I started to wonder how many other young people like me think can’t do sports. So I decided to do a degree in Sport Development and Coaching. I’ve just finished my second year and I’m really enjoying it. Eventually I’d like to incorporate it into CP Teens and bring my two passions together.
Hopes for the future
Ultimately, I want to do CP Teens full-time. I only do it very part-time at the minute because of university, but I think if I put in more hours I could make it so much better.
We already have over 2000 followers on Twitter and more than 1000 likes on Facebook. The website gets about 1000 visits a day which is pretty cool (and scary!) and I get about 25 emails a day too. It’s hard trying to fit it in around university but in the summer it does get easier.
We’re just about to get charity status so that will be really good. At the moment, because it’s not got a registered number, people can be a bit dismissive of it. We’ll also be able to apply for funding and have charity partners so we can do more things. I just want to see it grow and grow, and reach more people.
I get so many emails from people saying “because of CP Teens I’m much more confident and I’ve done this and that”. I can remember, before CP Teens, thinking I was the only person on the planet with cerebral palsy. I think it’s important to let people know that they’re not alone.
Ellie is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We’ll be releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Keep up to date with all of our new stories on our 30 under 30 page.
To get involved with CP Teens and find out more about Ellie, visit the CP Teens website.