Athlete from Blackpool Polar Bears in funding drive for Team Special Olympics GB

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A Blackpool athlete is on a quest to raise funds to support her place at the Berlin 2023 World Games after becoming the only athlete in Lancashire to be selected as part of Team Special Olympics GB.

Charlotte Foster was chosen from more than 30 nominated swimmers to be named in the team’s swimming squad of six for the Special Olympics in June.

She will compete against other athletes from around the world in what will be the biggest inclusive sporting event of the year.

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Charlotte, who was born with a heart condition, is a member of the Blackpool Polar Bears, a charity and the UK’s largest multi-disability swimming club which runs sessions from Moor Park Swimming Pool in Bispham.

Daniel Mackie, from Hamilton, Charlotte Foster who will compete in the Berlin 2023 World Games and Highfurlong Special School headteacher Neill OldhamDaniel Mackie, from Hamilton, Charlotte Foster who will compete in the Berlin 2023 World Games and Highfurlong Special School headteacher Neill Oldham
Daniel Mackie, from Hamilton, Charlotte Foster who will compete in the Berlin 2023 World Games and Highfurlong Special School headteacher Neill Oldham

The 28-year-old, who also has Asperger's Syndrome and ADHD, works at Highfurlong Special School in Blackpool as part of the facilities team.

When headteacher Neill Oldham found out about her achievement, he asked his friends and the local community for help and donations.

Within a week, more than £1,600 had been raised by people and organisations including £1,250 from Daniel Mackie, who is a director of Baildon-based Hamilton (Building Contractors) Ltd.

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"I had to keep it a secret for a month”

Charlotte said: “I couldn’t believe it when I found out that I was chosen, I thought it was going to go to someone else.

“I was on holiday in Mexico and had to keep it a secret for a month, which was hard because I just wanted to tell everyone.

“I am really excited; I can’t wait for June!”

Open heart surgery just before her first birthday

Charlotte joined the Blackpool Polar Bears when she was 10-years-old and worked hard to become one of the fastest 25 metre swimmers.

She underwent open heart surgery just a day before her first birthday. Her battle didn’t end there and she struggled to adjust in mainstream school due to learning difficulties.

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At the age of 10 she was diagnosed with ADHD and then Asperger's Syndrome at the age of 19, but she hasn’t let anything stand in the way of her dreams.

“Overwhelmed by the support”

Charlotte’s mum, Ann Foster, added: “Charlotte has achieved so much in life and her position on Team GB is testament to all her hard work and determination.

“She will compete in three races, which are the 25m backstroke, front crawl and relay events, but her favourite is backstroke, which we joke is because she can keep talking while she is doing it.

“She loves her job at Highfurlong. The support of headteacher, Neill Oldham, has been amazing and after he put out a social media post we got lots of donations including monetary and other support from Daniel Mackie, which was just fantastic.”

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Neill, who has been headteacher at Highfurlong Special School for five years, added: “We absolutely adore Charlotte so when we found out about her amazing achievement we naturally wanted to support her and help to raise the funds she needs.

“We have been overwhelmed by the support of people locally and companies such as Hamilton and we will keep going until we reach our personal magic number of £5,000 of funding.”

Daniel Mackie, Director at Hamilton, added: “Charlotte is an absolute inspiration and we will be supporting her financially and by gaining publicity to make sure her dreams come true.

“We will then continue our support by helping to raise funds and awareness for Blackpool Polar Bears throughout the year as it is a fantastic group that gives everyone the opportunity to enjoy swimming.”

Blackpool Polar Bears coach, Emma Inglis, will be supporting Charlotte throughout the World Games after being chosen as the Team Special Olympics GB head coach, while club founder, Lynda Inglis, is also a member of the support staff.

100 people attend Blackpool Polar Bears sessions

Emma Inglis, coach at Blackpool Polar Bears, added: “My mum, Lynda, launched Blackpool Polar Bears in 2000 after she struggled to find inclusive activities for her late brother Paul Millins, who had Down's Syndrome.

“We started out at St Georges in Blackpool with just five members and now we have more than 100 people attending sessions at Moorpark.

“Our Learn to swim group starts at age five, our juniors are 8-16 and our senior’s squad, which Charlotte is a member of, is for adults of all ages. We also run water therapy sessions.

“We cater for everyone, whatever their physical or mental abilities and we are like one big family.

“Charlotte works so hard and thoroughly deserves her place on Team GB.”

To donate money to help Charlotte attend the Special Olympics, visit

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