The growth of the Charity had been driven by a network of key volunteer supporters – our Area Organisers. These are our local ‘heroes’ based out in the regions, who source Service Providers, organise the events, act as our Ambassadors, provide information, stimulation and inspiration to people in their region. They are the face, the heart and soul of Sportability. Let’s meet them …..
We had our oldest region revitalised when Dan joined us. He had been an avid participant in the West Midlands programme and was so inspired by the experience that he contacted us to look at taking over as our events organiser for his ‘homeland’ of East Midlands.
He’s intent on bringing sport to more people with paralysis and we’re growing the list of activities year on year, with quadbiking, archery, laser clay pigeon shooting, canoeing and sailing in the current list; with gliding, blokart sailing and microlight flying coming soon.
Charlie helps to organise events for Dorset, Hants and West Sussex. A high flyer in business, he was Finance Director for HMSO and then The Stationery Office for the Parliamentary and Statutory arm of the business. He retired on medical grounds in 2005 because of MS. As he says, “It was exciting, interesting but, ultimately, too stressful. A quieter life beckoned.”
His ‘quieter life’ includes being a dad of two university students, watching cricket, beekeeping, astronomy, photography, a school governor and “painting in watercolours (badly).”
With classic understatement he says, “I like to be active and participating and helping Sportability certainly brings me both opportunity and great satisfaction.”
David and Neil are some of our most widely travelled participants popping up at any number of Sportability events around the country, even staying at hotels over-night to enjoy a next day in gliding, shooting and quadbiking. They were so inspired by the experience that they got in touch with us to look at ways of developing a programme of events around their ‘homeland’ area of Chesterfield. They are both dedicated to bringing sport to more people with paralysis – so much so that between them they run not one but two regions: North Midlands; and the burgeoning South Yorkshire.
Jane first encountered Sportability at the MS Life Exhibition & Conference in Manchester in 2014. Until that time, it is fair to say that Jane felt her MS had robbed her of any extraneous adventurous activities. However, she was so inspired by the Sportability message that she threw herself into the Sportability programme travelling around the country to experience quad biking, archery, shooting, sailing, gliding, indoor skydiving and Blokart sailing.
Enthused to spread the message in her own locality, she volunteered to help set up and become an Area Organiser for the Yorkshire region. With her invaluable help and limitless enthusiasm we’ve had a winter event of indoor skydiving and the summer programme features: quad biking at Tadcaster; waterskiing at Treeton, near Rotherham; and gliding near Selby. And in planning we’ve got shooting, archery, sailing and Blokart sailing.
Moreover, Jane is actively looking to add to that roster of events and introduce more people with paralysis to the Sportability Experience.
Dan had been travelling to the events in the South-West, but wanted to bring more sport to more people in his local area. So he offered to develop a West Midlands region and we now have a full programme of quadbiking, shooting, gliding, sailing and canoeing throughout the season.
In 2008 Russ came along to our events, liked what he saw and did, and wanted to get more involved. In fact he was so taken by the experience of microlight flying that he immediately signed up for lessons and is now a qualified pilot. So following the fantastic success of our ‘pilot programme’ [sorry] in Oxfordshire, he is adding more sport to the calendar.
A few years ago Chris joined us for a quad-biking day ‘rambling’ around Woodchester Park. The chance to get into the countryside, in a way not readily available to wheelchair users, got Chris thinking about the whole Sportability Experience. And he wanted to bring it to many more people. Now it’s not that Chris is a slouch in the sporting or adventure areas of life. Sky-diving, sailing, quad-biking, archery, shooting, gliding have all been part of the curriculum for this school teacher from Bath. But he wanted to ‘spread the word’. So we were delighted when Chris got in touch to takeover as Area Organiser for Bristol & Gloucestershire. With Jayne his wife, also highly enthused, we have a formidable team.
Sophie ‘found’ Sportability when she joined an event in her local Dorset & Hants region. She was so taken with the experience that when she moved home to Kent she offered to start an activity programme there. She now oversees the full and flourishing Kent & East Sussex region. A campaigner for disability rights she is employed by the Centre for Independent Living in Kent, and sees Sportability as a means of re-affirming people’s abilities and capabilities.
Ian Winton was first introduced to Sportability at the annual conference of the Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia Society in 2014. During a presentation our CEO, David Heard, was describing the role of the Area Organiser and after the meeting Ian sought David out to volunteer his services.
We already had a skeletal programme in the North West, but the incumbent AO had moved on and the programme was in limbo. Following that chance meeting we were delighted to resuscitate the programme under the inspiration of Ian’s involvement. This now includes indoor skydiving at Manchester, quad biking near Stoke and waterskiing at Carr Mill, St Helens. And hopefully to come this summer, microlight flying, sailing and canoeing.
Although fully employed in a clinical pharmacy role in physical and mental health services for the NHS, Ian nevertheless gives up his leave time and weekends to manage what is a growing programme. His enthusiasm has re-vitalised the region and brought more sport to more people with paralysis in the North West.
Tim understands the Sportability Experience from the inside. He was already actively sailing, carriage riding, going to the gym when he heard about Sportability through his local MS Society. So in the summer of 2007 he joined us or one of our first multi-sports days in Dorset & Hampshire. He had so much fun on the day, quad-biking and clay pigeon shooting, that he soon became a regular attendee.
With his enthusiasm and positive approach we were delighted when Tim agreed to take on a more active role as our Area Organiser. Since then, Sportability in Dorset & Hants. has had one of the most exciting and diverse programme of events – and this continues to develop.
Tim’s mantra is: One life. Live it. It is one that he is helping dozens of people to achieve.
After many years of superb support and involvement Tim has ‘retired’ from the AO role. We give huge thanks for all his help and hope to still see him participating in our various events throughout the season.