‘Being here is like a home away from home’, that’s what Ajani Riggs (aged 12 years) from Hull says after experiencing WheelPower’s National Junior Games 2019 at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, the birthplace of the Paralympic movement. 

Over four days at the end of September and start of October WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport, welcomed 100 young disabled people aged 12-18 years from schools and as individuals across the country to take part in the annual event. 

Some had never played sport before and others had experienced limited access to sports activities at school, yet all were given the opportunity to try out 20 different disability sports and challenge themselves in healthy competitions. Improving mental and physical wellbeing through sport was the overall aim of the National Junior Games, in addition to providing a platform for those with sporting talent to be identified and nurtured along the Paralympic pathway.  

The participants received expert coaching and demonstrations from leading sports athletes and experienced coaches. ‘Have-a-Go’ sporting activities included: Boccia, Table Cricket, Athletics (Field Indoors), Cue Sports, Zone Hockey, Wheelchair Rugby, Fencing, Table Tennis, Shooting, Polybat, and Powerlifting.

Mathew Townrow (aged 12 years) from Ipswich who attended the Games this year commented: ‘Since I’ve arrived I’ve been doing polybat, table cricket, wheelchair basketball, boccia, hand cycling and power-lifting. People were asking me what I was going to do, but no one had actually been here to tell me what it was going to be like.  It’s very interesting to enter something that you don’t know. It’s been very good, especially the breakfast, I had a full English, that’s one way to force me out of bed’, he jokes. 

WheelPower’s Chief Executive, Martin McElhatton is pleased that the Charity, through generous support from donors and sponsors, was able to host another successful National Junior Games, where youngsters were able to enjoy the incredible benefits of taking part in wheelchair sport.

‘At WheelPower our aim is to transform lives through sport and it is encouraging to see that, once again, all the participants thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to try a wide variety of sports and activities at this year’s National Junior Games 2019.” 

WheelPower want all of the participants to return home from the Games full of confidence and with the desire to continue playing sport and being active.’

Pasan Kularatne, Head of Sport and Physical Activity at WheelPower comments, “Sport has incredible physical and mental benefits to children with physical impairments. At WheelPower we offer an opportunity through the National Junior Games for participants to find a sport or physical activity which suits them and can help them see a positive future with sport as part of their life. We hope that participants will be inspired to continue to maintain their active lifestyles back in their hometowns and that teachers will endeavour to accommodate the disability sports that they have tried into their P.E curriculums.”

Jack Leech (16) from Highfurlong School in Blackpool comments on his experience of the National Junior Games 2019: ‘It’s a really good experience because I wouldn’t get to do it at home. I’ve tried just about everything and it’s really fun just being here and being surrounded by like-minded people’. 

The whole event culminated in an Awards Ceremony to celebrate the achievements of those who took part in the disability sports competitions.

Lucy King (16) Angmering School won the Andy Wallace Award for outstanding achievement. ‘I am absolutely surprised was not expecting to get it, I’m really, really happy! It’s inspired me to come back to the Games next year and give it my best shot at all these amazing wheelchair sports again!’, she comments. 

All of this would of course not be made possible, if not for the very generous donations of fundraisers who have raised money to support the work of WheelPower. Leah Lewis, WheelPower Community Fundraiser comments: ‘From wheelchair relays at schools to book a speaker events, festivals and corporate partnerships we cover the mix. Anyone interested in fundraising for WheelPower can visit our Fundraising webpage: https://www.wheelpower.org.uk/events for ways on how you can give something back and make a transformative difference to people’s lives or visit our social media for ways to get involved’.