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Francis is 26 and from a small town called Crowborough in East Sussex. During the pandemic Francis and his family discovered the Live Online Exercise Classes from WheelPower on social media and he has been regularly attending them ever since.
This is Francis’s story …
Francis was born in Pembury, Kent and is one of 3 triplets alongside brothers Nathan and Ashely. In the weeks after being born he underwent complicated surgery and was diagnosed with multiple conditions. Francis explains further, “A week after I was born I was diagnosed with Necrotising Enterocolitis which was fixed after lots of complex surgery when I was very small. The doctors also found I had a cyst on my brain which caused me to have Cerebral Palsy.”
Francis’s disability affects his mobility and mainly his legs which makes it hard for him to get about as much as he would like. “I have had several operations on my legs but unfortunately without success. I am now mostly in a wheelchair, but I was able to use sticks and a walking frame when I was younger.” Francis went to mainstream school and college but unfortunately has had a few chances to enjoy work experience. He attends a day care service for adults with learning disabilities in Tonbridge, Kent called Upz and Downz. Describing what they do Francis tells us, “They provide opportunities for me to learn new skills to help me with everyday life.”
Francis is from a big family. As well as his two brothers he also has two older sisters and together they have travelled across America and to Ireland many many times. “My two brothers and sister Lauren were world championship standard Irish dancers. We have also been on a TV programme called ‘Irish Dancing Triplets’ about our life as a family in the Irish dancing world which was shown on Channel 4 in 2012. It was great fun to be part of!”
Like so many other disabled people the Covid-19 pandemic left them feeling isolated, shielding and seeking new opportunities to keep their minds and body active whilst at home. With exercise facilities and day services closed Francis and his family were looking for online resources to help them through these unprecedented times. “Covid stopped everything as my day care had to close and where I live there are no other local suitable groups that I can go to."
Before the pandemic I used to go swimming twice a week and I did keep fit and sport at the day centre. I then didn’t do any of this during the pandemic/lockdown until my sister found WheelPower on Twitter. After Natalie told me about WheelPower I booked a ticket and first attended a class with Ben in February 2021, and have been most weeks since!”
Since discovering the live online exercise classes from WheelPower Francis has been a regular attendee to both Ben’s and Ella’s workouts. “Ben and Ella classes are so fun, they tell you what to do, and they’re both very kind and always happy. I liked everything about the classes but I think my favourite part is the warm-up with neck and arm stretches. I also like using the resistance bands and the broom (but being careful not to hit anything like the TV, as the broom has a long handle!).”
Not only was Francis able to enjoy exercise again in a safe and friendly environment online but he was also benefiting socially from meeting other disabled people from across the UK and hearing about their own experiences. “I liked seeing different people and it was nice to be able to have a chat and keep fit at the same time. The classes have become very important to me as I can enjoy the social side as well as the exercise. They have also helped me keep busy and given me routine.”
As well as the classes themselves and the use of the online videos from WheelPower Francis has also been a beneficiary of the Resistance bands programme and received a free set of bands at the start of March 2021. “The resistance bands are a lot easier to use than what I started off with because I had been borrowing my sister’s resistance band which was quite hard to use. Not only do I now have some new bands but I have also watched and used online videos to keep me busy on days when there are no live classes.”
Francis’s story has shown the benefits of exercise and how the WheelPower Classes have provided new opportunities for disabled people to interact and enjoy being active together, no matter their ability, age or wherever they may in the country. Staying active during these challenging times has proven very difficult for many disabled people and at WheelPower we are delighted that we were able to create new digital resources and provide these new opportunities that have become so popular to so many.
“Thank you WheelPower for helping me to stay active during lockdown. I now look forward to the Thursday class every week with Ella but unfortunately now my day care has started again I will miss Ben’s class from now on.”
Francis’s sister continues ...
“Francis has really enjoyed the classes and it has really kept him going throughout lockdown. Thank you WheelPower for holding these. There isn’t much for him to do in the area that we live in so he has really loved taking part in these when he can.”
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