Ellie was just 18 years old when she set up CP Teens UK as a way of reaching out to other young people who feel a bit lost and isolated. The response was fantastic and CP Teens UK has grown into a vibrant community, both online and offline. Now, at 22, Ellie continues to pretty much single-handedly run this amazing organisation.
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.
I felt like, socially, there was nothing out there for people like me and I didn’t have the confidence to go out and get a job. So I decided to set up CP Teens UK. 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.
It made me feel less alone
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. However, I woke up the next morning to find that people like Francesca Martinez and Sophie Christiansen 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.
I want it to be for everybody
CP Teens UK has 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 partnerships with some fantastic charities, including CP Sport and Accessible Derbyshire.
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 to 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 they can’t do sports.
Sport can really change lives
Now that I’ve finished my university degree in Sport Development with Coaching, I work on CP Teens UK full-time. I also have a part-time role with Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association as a Sport Development Officer, particularly working on the development of RaceRunning.
In March, CP Teens UK received full charitable status and we’ve just moved into an office at the local football club. It is amazing to see how much it has grown and continues to grow. I am beyond excited for the future of CP Teens UK!
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 UK, 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.
Sport can really change lives. Before I was involved in sport, I avoided it at all costs and I most definitely did not see it as ‘life changing’. As well as it changing my life, it has also enhanced my life in so many different ways. I now don’t know where I would be without sport and RaceRunning!
To get involved with CP Teens UK and find out more about Ellie, visit the CP Teens UK website.
As part of our mission for everyday equality, we are going to be running a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport, as well as challenging attitudes towards disability. Find out how you can get involved with Sport For All.