Disabled children discover a passion for sports at 'life changing' annual event for wheelchair-users

Children from Highfurlong School in Blackpool made waves in the world of sports at the WheelPower National Junior Games, a massive annual event for disabled youngsters with a passion for fitness.

By Wes Holmes
Friday, 8th July 2022, 12:30 pm

Some 115 disabled children took part in the games at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium in Buckinghamshire – the birthplace of the Paralympic movement - from June 28 until July 1.

Tennis, rugby, basketball, fencing, boccia, football, table tennis, badminton, golf, rowing, laser shooting, athletics, swimming, archery and aerobics were among the vast range of sports available at the event, which returned to the calendar for the first time since the outbreak of Covid-19.

For more than 15 years, Highfurlong pupils have enjoyed attending the games, which are hosted by WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport.

The WheelPower games

Headteacher Neil Oldham said: “We brought a mixed range of children with us to Stoke Mandeville Stadium to experience and try lots of sports, and they are absolutely loving it. When I arrived one of the students came up to me and said ‘hi boss, I’m having the best life!’

"The whole term is planned around coming to the National Junior Games and it’s the first thing that goes in the calendar. Our students get to work with incredible coaches and see other children who are similar to them from all over the UK. From our school, it’s essential that the support is there and for the pupils to be part of something like this is life changing. We would like to say a huge thank you to the charities and organisations for supporting events like this.”

The WheelPower National Junior Games provide a unique opportunity for disabled children to discover a passion for sports. Paralympic stars Alfie Hewett, Ade Adepitan, David Weir and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson all attended the games on their roads to success.

This year, the Blackpool-based Kentown Wizard Foundation joined the games as a partner, providing much-needed funding.

The WheelPower games

WheelPower CEO Martin McElhatton OBE said: “After the last few years, it was emotional to see our National Junior Games back at Stoke Mandeville Stadium and I can honestly say that it made me so very proud.

"Disabled children have been hugely impacted by the pandemic and thanks to this wonderful support we are able to host the games after a two-year break. We are thrilled to be able to provide this life changing event for young disabled people including individuals and SEND schools like Highfurlong School.

"The Games not only improve health and wellbeing but instil confidence and provide a fun, social experience for those taking part. WheelPower is keen to tackle the inequalities disabled people face in accessing sport and physical activity and the games will make a real positive impact to address these.”

Kentown Wizard Foundation CEO Margaret Ingram said: "This is an extraordinary event which enables young disabled people to discover a passion for sport in an inclusive and welcoming environment. After two very difficult years, the return of the National Junior Games is a cause for celebration and we are proud to offer our support. The ethos of the games to ‘achieve your personal best’ aligns very closely to our own ethos and we hope that for the young people who attend, the benefits are long lasting and maybe even life changing.”