Tag Archives: Sports

I thought I was the only one feeling like this, then the responses started coming in

Ellie felt isolated as a teenager so she set up CP Teens UK to connect other young people and show them that they’re not alone. Sport has transformed her life too. After spending years being excluded from P.E. lessons at school, she’s now competing at a professional level.

In this blog, Ellie shares her story and tells us why she’s dedicated to making sure that no-one else feels alone, like she did.

I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy just before my second birthday and my parents were told I’d never talk, walk, or function in a ‘normal’ world. Fast forward 22 years, and I do all three and even more! I went through mainstream education, achieving GCSE’s and A-Levels, and most recently a BSc, even though my parents were once told this was ‘impossible’.

Although I coped well academically, school began to get a bit difficult for me when I was around 13 or 14. That’s the age when kids start to form cliques and reject anyone who is a bit different. I felt lonely a lot of the time.

And it wasn’t just the students; teachers would actively discourage me from joining in with things. When we had a P.E. class the teachers would look at me and say: “Shall we go inside and do some homework Ellie?”

At the time, I went along with it because I was so self-conscious. My cerebral palsy is very obvious when I move and I wanted to stay inside and hide away.

Ellie, a young disabled woman, smiling at the camera
Ellie felt less alone after she set up CP Teens UK

I wondered if it was just me feeling like this

I realised that there was nothing out there for people like me, both socially and in terms of going out there and getting opportunities. I didn’t have the confidence to go out and get a job, and my friends all went off to university and forgot about me.

I felt like I was the only person on the planet feeling like this so I set up a Twitter account in the name of ‘CP Teens UK’ thinking nothing would really come of it. Then, the next day I woke up to loads of followers including Francesca Martinez and Sophie Christensen!

The response was amazing. People were getting in touch saying, “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. It made me feel less alone. I’ve met some really cool people.

Since then I’ve set up a Facebook page and a website and it just grew and grew and CP Teens UK became a fully registered charity in March this year.

Then sport opened up a whole new world for me too

Because I was discouraged at school, I avoided sport throughout my life. I wasn’t even aware that there were opportunities for disabled people in sport. Then, the Paralympics changed everything. Seeing disabled athletes at the top of their game made me realise what was possible.

I saw something on Twitter about a Paralympics GB Taster Day and I went along to see what it was like. It was an incredible day with an amazing atmosphere. When it came to sports, I’d always heard: “No, you can’t do that, it’s not safe” but now it was all: “Come on and have a go.”

Sport transformed my life and now I regularly train and compete internationally. I have just been selected for the 2018 World Cerebral Palsy Games in Barcelona. Out there on the track, being watched by hundreds of people, I am in complete control. As a disabled person, I don’t feel that way very often. Being cheered on by so many people who are all on your side is a powerful thing.

Ellie Simpson races an adapted bike on a race track
Ellie competing in RaceRunning

Hopes for the future

It’s important to let people know that they’re not alone. I set up CP Teens because 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.

Now I want to connect people through sport too. I’ve just finished a degree in Sports Coaching and I organise events through CP Teens. Sport is something that brings people together and I don’t want anyone else to be left out like I was.

Too often disabled people struggle to access the right emotional support, advice and information. As a result they feel like no one truly understands, leaving them disconnected and isolated from those around them. This is particularly heart-breaking at Christmas.

Please help us this Christmas by getting involved with our What I Need To Say campaign. Share the message, tell us your stories, and donate to Scope so we can be there for people who have nowhere else to turn.

With dance you’re free to move the way you want. You don’t think about being disabled.

It’s International Dance Day so we chatted to Jess, a 13-year-old dancer, who was born with Bilateral PFFD. In this blog she talks about how she got into dance, what she loves about it and shares a couple of her performances. 

I was born with a condition called Bilateral PFFD. It means that my thigh bones didn’t develop in the womb. I am also missing the fibula, one of the bones in the lower leg. I was born with feet but they were amputated when I was two and a half. I’ve also had a couple of other surgeries to fix a problem with the bone in my right leg.

I got into dance when I was about 11 because I’d been watching a TV show called The Next Step. I really enjoyed the concept of dance and how it impacted on people’s lives. So that was the start of everything. We have a dance hall at my school so during breaks and lunches I’d go in there. We also had dance classes in year 7 and 8, which I really enjoyed. I don’t have dance classes now that I’m in year 9 but on a Tuesday after school I go to a break dance club, then I go to a contemporary dance club. That’s really fun as well.

I don’t think about being disabled

With dance I like the way that you’re so free to move the way you want to and it’s just a really nice, free environment. I really like hip hop and break dance because that’s fun to mess around to. I like contemporary dance because you can show emotions through it and it’s easy to let your anger out or let your sadness out or whatever. I really like Candoco which is a dance company of disabled and non-disabled dancers. I’ve done a couple of things with them.

When I’m adapting my dancing, I just kind of figure it out as I go along. Like, when people are fully using their legs, I might mimic that with my hands or cancel that bit out and carry on with the arms. I’m pretty good at moving across the floor. Practice helps too. Once you’ve done it, especially when you’ve been at a club for a while and you know the choreographer’s style of dance, you can adapt the moves. A lot of my dance moves are improvised – I just move with the music.

I also do wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. When I find a sport that I really like or I find that I can move really well with it, I stick with it. It’s nice because you don’t think about being disabled, everyone’s just the same.

Jess Dowdeswell 2

Focus on what you can do

My school is pretty good in terms of inclusivity. They helped me get into sports and accommodated me. It might have been a little bit difficult getting involved in dance at first because I have to adapt it but all the people I dance with are really kind and nice so I’ve been quite lucky.

My advice for other disabled kids would be: focus on the stuff that you can do, not what you can’t do. I haven’t really experienced any negative attitudes but I’m sure there are people who have their doubts. A couple of years ago one of my friends from church, who’s a teacher, was having a conversation with her class about sport and the kids were saying “oh disabled people wouldn’t be able to do sports” that kind of thing. So I  went in with my mum and had a conversation with the kids. It was good to be able to give them a different perspective.

If you have a story you’d like to share, get in touch with Scope’s stories team.

Meet Britain’s most decorated female tennis player of all time – Jordanne Whiley

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Jordanne Whiley is a Paralympian, eight time Grand Slam champion and Britain’s most decorated female tennis player of all time. She was born with osteogenesis, more commonly know as brittle bone disease.

With Rio 2016 fast approaching, Jordanne is training hard in the hopes of getting double gold. As part of 30 Under 30, she talks about how she got into tennis, role models and her other passion in life, singing.

When I was three years old, my dad took me out to Israel because he was competing in a tennis tournament. I was just going out with my mum and he was playing a match one day and I just wanted to play tennis but obviously I couldn’t. My dad’s friend gave me a racket and ball and I just started hitting it. Then it was all over Israeli news and newspapers. Basically, it all just kicked off  because I was three, in a wheelchair with my legs in plaster playing tennis.

I became professional around the time I was 16. I’d just qualified for Beijing Paralympics and I wasn’t expected to but I got the wild card. I actually qualified on my sixteenth birthday so that was a nice surprise! When I came back I quit academic studies and became a professional tennis player.

Tennis is such a great game. You have fun and the social life is great. It really helps you become comfortable with your impairment as you meet loads of different disabled people. It can really help you accept yourself.

Role Models

When I was growing up, I didn’t really have any role models to look up to. I don’t really like looking up to celebrities and people like that because I don’t know them. They could turn out to be something they’re not.

If I looked up to anyone, I’d want them to be a real person, not a celebrity. For example, I had my dad for a lot of it, he was my coach until I was 12 and both of my parents were very supportive of my career. It was kind of like just me and them for a very long time.

Some people say I’m contradicting myself because they think I’m a celebrity role model. But I don’t see myself as that. I don’t own 300 Bentleys and live in an 80 room mansion, I’m a real person. What I say and what I do is always from a real person’s point of view. I’m not interested in becoming famous, I just want to influence, help and inspire people.

Jordanne, a young disabled woman, looks determined whilst holding a tennis racket
Photo courtesy of RGK

Being comfortable in your own skin

I’m disabled and don’t look like Paris Hilton but I’m successful. It doesn’t matter who you are, what background you’re from, what shape and size you are, you can still be successful. You don’t have to look a certain way to fit into society.

Don’t dwell on things you can’t change and focus on the things you can change, like your success in your field or your attitude towards other people or yourself. I would like to help people see that.

If you listen to my story, I was bullied in school quite badly, I never grew to five foot and I don’t have nice legs. But I don’t worry about any of that because I can’t change that. When you do put that to one side and just focus on the things that matter, it’s so much better. Just focus on doing something you love. You might want to dance but you don’t think you’ve got the body to dance. If that’s what makes you happy, just go and dance. Who cares what people think?

Life outside of tennis

Monday to Friday, I train from about 10am-4pm. I get home late evening and then I’m pretty knackered to be honest! I do cook and bake a lot and if I have the time, I do grow my own vegetables. I just like doing normal, domestic stuff.

I’ve sung my whole life. There’s videos of me as a kid singing Spice Girls when I was five or six. When I was in my teens, I was obsessed with Shakira so I only used to sing her songs. As I grew up and my voice developed, it developed like Shakira’s voice! I’d really like to get into singing a bit more as I love it.

I wrote my own song about my boyfriend. For Christmas he bought me a package to go and record it professionally and put it on iTunes. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would. The song is actually really good. It’s kind of similar to Lukas Graham’s “Seven Years”. It’s not mushy, it’s about a real life relationship.

Keep a look out for Jordanne’s track on iTunes.

Jordanne is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Read other stories from 30 Under 30.

To find out more about stories and how they are at the heart of everything we do at Scope, visit our new Stories hub.

Featured image courtesy of The Tennis Foundation.

The football player who is representing England in the World Cup – Chris

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Chris has spinal muscular atrophy and from a young age has been playing powerchair football. With the sport constantly changing, Chris is gearing up to represent England in the Powerchair Football World Cup next year.

As part of 30 Under 30, he tells us how the sport has changed and why people should get involved.

I’ve always been football mad.

At school I was playing on my knees in goal, driving around on the floor until my muscles deteriorated. Then I got involved in wheelchair football. I was at secondary school and my P.E. teacher heard about trials that were going on at Aston Villa at the time. I’d never heard of the sport, never seen the sport played. So I got the afternoon off school, went down and had a look. I used to play by perching on the end of my seat and kicking a ball around in the garden with my brother so it was a bit of a shock when I arrived.

Back then it was a great big football and half a car tyre strapped onto the front of the wheelchairs. I actually burst out in tears. I was like “This isn’t football. I don’t want to play this.” It was more like bumper cars than football. But my dad was there and he encouraged me to give it a go. I fell in love with it and I’ve not stopped playing since.

Chris, a young disabled man in an electric wheelchair, smiles at the camera

The sport has massively changed since I started playing

There’s a national programme, there’s two national leagues with 12 teams in each and there’s regional leagues. Back when I started there was no real backing, we played in everyday wheelchairs so it was just whatever you could ‘bodge job’ up to play. It wasn’t very professional. But now we’ve got specific chairs for the sport, specific equipment and a national league structure behind it.

Rather than the car tyre on the front of the chair, we’ve got a clip on attachment that’s a solid metal structure that you use to knock the ball around. The ball itself has gone down to half the size.

It’s given the sport a whole new lease of life. It’s quicker, it’s more enjoyable to watch. The ball gets kicked around with a lot more power so a lot of people that are watching are pretty gobsmacked when we’re smashing the ball around the court.

The game has been taken to a different level.

Representing England

My first involvement with the England team was in 2011. It’s all performance based. The coaching staff are all involved in the league so they’re just scouting the team, scouting the players. Then you get invited across for trials. And you’re just hoping to keep receiving an email saying “we’re inviting you back for the next one” and I’ve been in the squad ever since.

There’s been three World Cups now and 10 competing teams in each so far, from other counties world-wide. There’s been a qualification process to getting in the World Cup whereas before it was if you wanted to and if you’ve got the finances to do it. So now, fingers crossed, next year will be the most competitive World Cup to date. We had to qualify through a European qualifier.

It’s not a Paralympic sport yet but in 10 years’ time, I hope it will be. That will give it the bit of extra profile it needs and the professionalism it needs. It will allow people to view it as an elite sport rather than just an opportunity. Lots of people around it just see it as “oh great my son or daughter gets to play”, instead of “my son or daughter could be a gold medallist”. Fingers crossed that happens.

Two disabled men in electric wheelchairs play a wheelchair football match

I would recommend it to anyone

At matches people can expect a lot of excitement. You get plenty of action. It’s kind of one of those sports that you have to see it to understand what it’s all about.

Fingers crossed, as it grows and we can open it up more to the general public, people will take a genuine interest and, fingers crossed, watch England win a World Cup.

I’ve always been quite a competitive person, so it gives me that opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Having the opportunity to grow as an athlete, being able to play in the World Cup and travel the world playing football, it’s been great. I would recommend it to anyone.

Chris is sharing his 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 find out more about powerchair football, visit the Wheelchair Football Association’s website.

“Football clubs need to think about disabled people” Kelly, the football club owner

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This story is part of 30 Under 30.

 

Kelly Perks-Bevington is an entrepreneur and business owner from the West Midlands who has spinal muscular atrophy type 3 and uses an electric wheelchair. 

As part of our 30 Under 30 campaign, she talks about getting into the world of work, her latest business venture and her aims of creating the most accessible football club in the country.

I wasn’t very studious at college so I was absolutely desperate to get straight into work. After loads of rejections, I got a job at a doctors surgery as a receptionist. It kind of lit a spark and made me think “I’ve got a path now”.

From there, I got a passion for being in the world of work. I applied to join a concierge company and I actually went on as an admin assistant there and worked my way up through the ranks until I had my own list of football clients.  This is where my lifestyle company, G5 Lifestyle, started.

Alongside my dad, I also run G5 Sports Consultancy LTD which we use as a vehicle for all of our crazy schemes. We have used it to consult into different football clubs on their practices and football business.

On the side of all this, I also run kellyperksbevington.com which is a portal for me to write blogs about things I’m passionate about. I really enjoy doing that and have had a lot of interest from big companies and media outlets recently, which is really exciting!

Kelly, a young woman, smiles while seated in a stand at a football stadium

Buying  a football club

My dad and I established the G5 business and then we went and bought Kidderminster Harriers Football Club.

It all kind of fell into place really nicely. My dad was in talks with the club for a while and the closer we got to it, the more we saw it as a viable business. My dad has been in the industry for 30 years and I’ve been in it for 10 so we’ve both got a pool of contacts that could be useful to the club.

We just wanted to get everything going in the right direction and make the club function more as a business. We also want to create ways to make money off the pitch as well as on the pitch to keep the club afloat. We’re trying a couple of different things like diversity projects, education projects, development on the ground and making the club more energy efficient.

The club is over 100 years old and we’re going to take it into a new era and get it functioning like a modern day football club should.

The fans have been really grateful as we put a significant amount of money in to secure the future of the club. We’ve had a lot of positive reactions which can’t always be expected as we’re making so many changes to something that people are used to. The response has been great from all the fans.

We’re starting a women’s football team, we had a diversity day with the Panjab FA and Jersey FA, and we’re planning to set up a whole events programme for next year and get the whole community involved!

Kelly, a young woman in an electric wheelchair, looks out over a football pitch

Making the club accessible

I’m a disabled person and the ground is not the best for me on a day-to-day basis. Upstairs we have our hospitality suite and our VIP boxes. I can’t gain access to any of that. Our boardroom where we have all of our board meetings is upstairs. Basically, all the good stuff is upstairs! There are also steps in the corridors of the offices at the club.

We’re putting ramps in where needed so we can take on more disabled staff and apprentices, other than myself and we’re going to put a lift in to the upper levels. Disabled fans will be able to enjoy the VIP areas as they should. They will be able to get access to all of the match day hospitality, as well as booking their private and corporate events upstairs with full accessibility.

We will also be adjusting our toilet facilities to make them better for every disabled person not just certain disabled people. The disabled  seating will also be changed. At the moment, it’s on the front row, so I want to move it around so people aren’t just in the firing line of the ball during matches. I’ve nearly been hit in the face many times watching a match!

I think it’s so important to make these changes. I need to practice what I preach. I get really annoyed when I go places and I want to have the VIP treatment but I can’t. I just need disabled people to have the exact same choices and experiences as everyone else. I want to make sure they can come to the club and enjoy the football without having to make special arrangements. I want it to be smooth sailing for everyone.

I think that football clubs need to think about disabled people. If we take away all the barriers so people can just enjoy things without having to worry, people are more likely to come and enjoy things and put their money into your pocket.

The future is looking bright. The club as a whole are united now.

Kelly, a young woman in an electric wheelchair, looks out over a football ground

Kelly is sharing her story as part of our 30 Under 30 campaign. We are releasing one story a day throughout June from disabled people under 30 who are doing extraordinary things. Catch up on all the stories so far on our 30 under 30 page.

To find out more about stories and how they are at the heart of everything we do at Scope, visit our new Stories hub.

“I want to connect people like me and show them that they’re not alone” – Ellie, the social entrepreneur

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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.

Ellie, a young disabled woman, smiling at the camera

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.

Ellie, a young disabled woman, races on an adapted tricycle on a racing track

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.

“I’ve talked about doing a marathon for 10 years, and this was the catalyst”: #100days100stories

Dan and Mel first shared their story in July 2014. We’re republishing it here as part of Scope’s 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign.

Dan and Mel’s son Oliver was recently diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Despite seeing specialists since a very young age, they had a long battle to get Oliver properly diagnosed, including nine months’ worth of tests.

“Oliver was different to other children, and we couldn’t explain why. Because of the issues and complex needs he had, he would do things like lick the radiator and lick the floor where it was cold. You’d go out into an environment where there were loads of other kids, and it was very obvious that he was different but we couldn’t explain why. You’d put him down on the floor and he would only crawl a little bit and then he would start eating the end of the table. We laugh at it now because we understand what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, but until that point we closed ourselves off and saw fewer people. We didn’t really want to go out – not because you’re ashamed, but you couldn’t turn round and say ‘This is why he’s behaving that way’.”

Dan and Mel's son, Oliver
Dan and Mel’s son, Oliver

Mel explained that it was incredibly hard to get a firm diagnosis, “but as soon as we got one and accepted it, it made us even more proud of him. We knew he had problems, but we didn’t ever dream he’d have cerebral palsy. I even remember saying at the beginning [of the road to a diagnosis], ‘Oh yeah, but it’s not like he’s got cerebral palsy or anything, it’s not so major.’ He doesn’t look like what many people would think a child with cerebral palsy looks like. He can walk and he’s got a voice – he’s non-verbal, but he has a voice and he uses it.”

Oliver’s condition left many paediatricians guessing for nine months, with Dan and Mel persisting that his behaviour wasn’t right. “At first we went to a private paediatrician who told us there was nothing wrong with him at all. It was at a young age, but other things had been picked up by health visitors. I contacted the NHS to get him into the system and the paediatrician we got is fantastic.” Putting Oliver through months of tests was difficult on his parents, and particularly Dan. “It was certainly hard putting him through it, watching him being tested. He was getting to the point where he understood enough to know ‘Oh, it’s another person prodding me.’ He would cry as soon as somebody came near him, because even though he didn’t understand everything, he understood that things were going on. That was quite difficult.”

For Mel, she was determined to get a diagnosis. “It was really important to me. Not that it changed anything – I don’t care if he’s got two heads! But it mattered, and I can’t explain why. The moment we had a diagnosis and it had sunk in, for both of us it felt like a weight had been lifted.” Dan goes on to explain that “there were definitely more tears shed in the run-up to the diagnosis than since the diagnosis. We do not feel sorry for ourselves or wish for different things, whereas before we were searching. Now there’s no need to search – it’s difficult to get the diagnosis, but once you do it’s a lot of help.”

Dan with Oliver
Dan with Oliver

Dan and Mel are clearly both very committed to their son, persisting to ensure he has the best support and stimulation possible including occupational therapy and sensory integration. It’s clear they have an eye to the future but it is still very early days for them in terms of Oliver’s diagnosis. Getting Oliver’s diagnosis was the catalyst for Dan to take on a challenge he’d been talking about for 10 years – the London Marathon – an emotional rollercoaster or excitement and apprehension. “I went through a phase where there was lots of pressure – you just think to yourself, ‘I just can’t let anyone down on the day’.”

The couple chose to support Scope as it captured a charity that helped others with similar needs to Oliver. “It goes to helping people, that’s the main thing.” Thanks to the overwhelming response of friends, family, colleagues and strangers, Dan has now raised more than £15,000. As well as support at work, Mel explained that Oliver’s nursery did a mini-marathon. “All the kids walked round the park – they raised £1,200, and that was just amazing. I think it makes a difference that it’s his first time running, and we’ve just had the diagnosis. For us, it’s been wow! We didn’t dream we’d get anywhere near this.”

There are still places available to run this year’s Brighton Marathon for Scope on Sunday, 12 April.

Find out more about the 100 Days, 100 Stories project.

No limits, and no excuses – World’s Strongest Disabled Man Competitor

Gary Clarke, who has cerebral palsy and is a support worker for people with learning difficulties, is competing in the World’s Strongest Disabled Man Competition.

In 2011 I was euphoric to hear from a friend on Facebook that there was a World’s Strongest Disabled Man competition. Having been a fan of strongman since the days of Geoff Capes and Jón Páll Sigmarsson. I can still hear cries of “I am a Viking” to this day.

I remember saying to my grandmother at the time “one day I’ll be doing this”.

I heard there was a local strongman training camp and trained there for a few years until it closed in 2014. Under the watchful eye of Phil Diamond, I entered various strongman competitions. My first demonstration was in 2011 where I took part in the Chase Charity Competition in Guildford, where I pulled a six ton truck, hand over hand, and lifted a car axle for repetitions.

I took part in another charity truck pull event along Paighton sea front, this event was truly spectacular. There were two choices of which truck to pull – a five ton tracker unit (the cab of a truck)or an 18 ton truck, I pulled the tracker unit twice with ease, the guy running the event said “I think that’s enough for you today.” To which I replied “you’re having a laugh mate I have come all this way I want to have a go at the 18 ton.”

I pulled the truck from start to finish, at the end of the pull the organizer said to me he’d never seen anything like that before in 20 years of Strongman. Bearing in mind I had never before attempted a truck pull of this sort I didn’t think it was a bad effort, also I was the only person to finish, and the only person there with a physical impairment. The crowd went wild and the atmosphere was electric, people were even stopping me in the street afterwards and congratulating me on the achievement.

I then flew out to Iceland to compete for the first time in the Worlds Strongest Disabled Man competition. The event consists of six events over two days:

  • The truck pull – stationed at the top of a hill in a harnessed down wheelchair I had to pull a 4×4 up the hill, this was by far the toughest event of the competition.
  • The log lift – 75kg on an incline bench for repetitions
  • The Hercules hold – 80kg each hand on a pulley system, holding on for time , this felt like true torture !
  • The loading race
  • The crucifix hold – 10kg swords in each hand for maximum time
  • The atlas stones ranging from 30-90kg in weight!

I was reasonably satisfied with my debut performance, considering I had not had much chance to practice specifically for the events at the time. I also got the opportunity to meet Magnus ver Magnusson the four time winner of the World’s Strongest Man competition, co-organizer of the event and Strongman icon. This experience was quite surreal as Magnus was somebody I had admired for years and suddenly I was being collected from the airport by him, brilliant!

2014 is my fourth time competing in the World’s Strongest Disabled Man competition

The build up this year has been unique because I have had the privilege to be coached by Laurence Shailai who has won Britain’s Strongest Man twice and competed in the World’s Strongest Man competitions. Laurence pushes me hard and gives me good solid advice on all the events and aspects and training, thanks Loz!

I am fortunate to be sponsored for the Iceland event by Impey Showers. Big thanks to them for their ongoing support.

I have high ambitions to start up a Britain’s Strongest Disabled Man competition next year.

I am living my dream, living proof that regardless of any impairment or disability you may have you can achieve anything you put your mind to. Who would have thought I would be able to pull an 18 ton truck 25 meters?

Watch this space for updates on how I do in Iceland, I will continue to push the boundaries on what I can achieve.

Can you survive 48 hours without digital?

A whole weekend with no Facebook, no phone, no tablet, nothing with a screen. That is exactly the challenge we set 20 Scope supporters back in November when introducing our brand new fundraising event Digital Detox. The event encourages our supporters to take up the challenge and experience just real analogue life, without the interference of technology.

In need of a detox was John Doree who pledged to go without tech for 48 hours and to re-engage with the offline side of life.

The tech-y way of life

No digital for 48 hours. No smart phones. No internet. Have a good old fashioned weekend.

When I first saw the Digital Detox challenge email I thought I’d give it a go. It’s my first bit of active participation in a Scope event and I was eager to do something and Digital Detox seemed a really good fit. I use my phone quite a bit for internet and a bit of social network stuff, but on the whole my phone usage pales in comparison to my use of other gadgets and gizmos. I listen to my MP3 player almost constantly on headphones, read using a Kindle, play games on a laptop, write music using said laptop and a host of other noise-making bits of hardware.
Despite all those bits of technology, on a personal level I thought just giving up one device wouldn’t be enough. The idea of dropping as much technology as I could for 48 hours was one that I thought would be a real challenge. It turned out to be much harder in reality.

My friends thought it would be a real nightmare for me, they’ve known me as the tech-obsessed geek with a penchant for software development and creating electronic music, so the thought of me ditching it all for a weekend was an amusing one. I think this was reflected in the generous donations that found their way to my Just Giving page and I was all too happy to give people a dread-filled commentary on Facebook in the run-up to the big switch-off. There were some last-ditch efforts to ensure I wouldn’t be completely scuppered over the weekend, I got some money out as I was including Cashpoints as accessible technology, then I just about remembered to switch my alarms off and that was it.

How many times do you check your phone?

The urge to check my phone was overwhelming, it was quite saddening at times to realise how much I instinctively reach for it when I’m doing even the most innocuous things like waiting for the kettle to boil. No Saturday morning TV either. There’s never anything on but there’s usually something recorded from the week on the Sky box, but no, this wasn’t allowed either. No music player or CD player in the living room. Right, OK then.

My other half had left for the day to catch up with her friends so I was left on my own. What was I going to do? I had a bath and hung up the washing. I did the washing up and changed the sheets. I took down the rubbish and recycling. I finished all these things and thought, now what? Read a book? So I read a book and promptly had a nap. The flat was so quiet and even our typically noisy neighbours were evidently also taking the weekend off their favourite activity of banging on the walls. Time just seemed to stretch before me and midnight Sunday evening was now a very distant prospect. Our plan for the evening was to go to a friend’s birthday in Camden and so I was relieved of my self-imposed analogue nightmare.

A virtual power cut

Sunday was a little more difficult, not just for me but for my now-suffering partner. My Digital Detox was now threatening her own activities, she felt guilty about turning the TV on or playing around on her phone and so left them alone in favour of the two of us just sitting around and having a chat. As much as we both wanted to laze around in front of the TV on a Sunday afternoon, in the end we found just sitting around nattering away for several hours was just as enjoyable.

By the time I went to bed on the Sunday evening I found I wasn’t missing technology as much as I thought I would. I was certainly looking forward to catching up on emails and continuing reading some trashy novel on the Kindle, but the predicted binge of technology on the Monday evening never came to pass.

So much is taken for granted and I felt that simply giving up my phone alone wasn’t enough.

The Just Giving page set up by the events team included the following bit of text:

“The money raised through Scope’s Digital Detox could help provide an iPad and accessories, so a student with limited verbal communication can interact in a way they have never done before – using equipment they can control themselves.”

This really resonated with me so I thought to draw a parallel between the cause and the challenge itself by trying to severely reduce my access to as much technology as possible. In the end it was fun, and a considerable challenge but it was an event that showed me how immediately accessible a lot of technology is these days.

Digital Detox will be returning for the first weekend in March. Sign up for your own 48 hour detox and pledge to embrace your inner analogue. For more information on how to sign-up to ‘go dark’ for a weekend of good old-fashioned fun check out the website or phone 020 7619 7270. To meet previous detoxers find us on Facebook and Twitter.

The toughest Ironman on the planet? Done.

Guest post from Scope fundraiser – and Ironman – Tom Partridge

On 8 September Pembrokeshire played host once again to Ironman Wales. 1,675 athletes from 40 countries took on the strength-sapping course and I was in the group of participants facing the open water sea swim off the coast of Tenby.

Ironman Wales is a 2.4 mile sea swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a marathon all rolled into one. The race has quickly gained a reputation for being one of the most gruelling events in the Ironman calendar.

My motivation

Tom's broken shoulder
Tom’s broken shoulder

Ironman had been on my list of things to do for a while. This year I turned 30 and it was time to be good to my word and get on and do it! I figured that while I was putting in the time and training effort, why not raise some money for a great charity, Scope, along the way.

Training was intense, fun, tiring, testing, rewarding, boring, long and at times so brutal. I had to overcome a shoulder injury I’d had earlier in the year. I knew I’d need every bit to help me prepare for the physical and mental challenge of completing the mammoth distance in under 17 hours.

Raising money for Scope was a great motivation and the support and donations that have been generated have been PHENOMENAL. It was an honour to be sponsored, and to give other young people the chance to fulfil their dreams. Not completing was not an option! 

A great day

The swim transition
The swim transition

On the day, it could not have gone better for me. The swimming conditions were great and I felt ready after three days of preparing in Tenby.

The swim is always hectic with 1,600 people fighting in the water for the first lap. You only get into the rhythm on the second lap.

Legging it through town to the swim-to-bike transition was epic. People were cheering and I got high fives off supporters. Seeing my friends and family on the route was ace.

Then my weakest section – the bike ride. But the £400 bike I got from eBay did me proud. Painted in my race colours, we flew past the £5,000 bikes with their punctures and troubles.

My aim with the marathon was to keep going slow and to keep injury free. I went at a comfortable pace, waving to the family on each lap and revelling in the amazing support through town. My last lap was tough, but all the cheering sent me down the finishing straight.

So how well did I do?

Tom at the Ironman Wales finish
Tom at the Ironman Wales finish

I managed to complete the whole course in: 12 hours, 52 minutes and 5 secs. This put me in 489th place overall.

I am over the moon with my times and achievements of the day and also the amount of money I have been able to raise in the process.

I have huge amounts of thanks and praise to give to everyone who donated and supported me in reaching the current total, well in excess of £1,400.

In addition, I have to say a huge thanks to my friends and family for their time and patience during this process (especially Jo and Felix) and of course, the supporters and people of Tenby who made the 8th September one of the greatest days of my life so far!

If it doesn’t already sound tough enough to you, take a look at the coverage of the event to see even the elites struggling with the course.

Tom’s hard work and determination has meant that he has already raised more than his fundraising target and you can still sponsor him. He has been keeping a blog of his training and Ironman experiences, and you can look at all his images from the day on his Facebook page. If you’ve put becoming an Ironman on your list of things to do in 2014, we still have places available.