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Henrietta (Hen) is 28 and from Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. She is a full-time wheelchair user and has always loved playing sport, and was a regular visitor to Stoke Mandeville Stadium as a junior when she attended our National Junior Games, took part in athletics events and played for the Aces Wheelchair Basketball Club.
“I’ve always been sporty. From 11 - 18 years old I attended WheelPower National Junior Games. It was one of the highlights of my year! Not only did I get to try a wide variety of sports (I caught the field athletics bug!) but it was fantastic socially and I’m still friends with a lot of people I attended with.”
Hen is also a long time friend of our very own Ella Beaumont and after they first met back in their junior days they have continued their friendship ever since. She continues, "I met Ella at a monthly sports club and we really wanted to play wheelchair basketball but at that time the Aces didn’t have a junior team. We took the cause up ourselves and set up the junior team along with a couple of other sports club participants."
Henrietta’s talent for basketball in particular was clear to see by all of her coaches. She was playing basketball for multiple clubs and across junior, women’s and national levels. She represented the south region at the National Championships between 2006-2008 and appeared on the BBC a couple of times to talk about her aspirations to compete at London 2012.
In 2008 Henrietta was also one of the recipients of the Rotary Wheel Appeal and she received a brand new RGK Titanium Interceptor wheelchair basketball chair to support her ongoing development and love of the sport. Unfortunately, Henrietta didn’t make it to London and in recent years her condition has progressed significantly.
“I have an unknown neurological condition that affects all four limbs and my trunk. A couple of years ago my condition progressed and I ended up without any movement from the neck down. Fortunately, I’ve improved a lot and now I am able to do a lot more and in the past couple of years I have definitely increased my adaptation skills, and my awareness and understanding of more severe disabilities.”
Despite the condition progressing Henrietta’s love of sport has never diminished and she continues to attend clubs and be as active as possible. She loves football and currently plays powerchair football for Telford, and she is also a keen boccia player.
The pandemic meant that a few of these sports were put on hold but as the months passed by these clubs have since returned and Henrietta is loving being back playing. “Before lockdown I was playing boccia weekly in Peterborough. This obviously stopped but has since resumed. Thankfully, powerchair football was able to resume earlier this year and it’s great being back in the swing of things. Our season starts soon and we’ll be playing matches every few months in The Midlands. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The Covid-19 pandemic meant that people like Henrietta were spending an increased time at home and as she explains this period also coincided with a worsening in her condition. “I wasn’t really up to doing anything anyway during most of lockdown.” However, it was during lockdown that Henrietta first discovered the WheelPower resources, including the online classes which she continues to attend them regularly to this day.
“I very much enjoy all of the classes I attend. Yoga I find chills me out for the rest of the day, Ben’s class gets the heart pumping! However, having known Ella since we were younger, I am biased and her classes are my favourite!”
“The main benefit apart from fitness of the WheelPower classes are that all of the instructors are wheelchair users. Also, the participants have a wide range of disabilities. I’m fairly self confident but the fact that I am ‘surrounded’ by fellow disabled people puts me more at ease and I’m not worried about not being able to do everything. Lots of people are in the same boat!”
Since attending the classes Henrietta has discovered lots more online exercise content from WheelPower and our instructors, and has also received a set of resistance bands which she tells us “have come in very handy!”.
We are delighted that Henrietta continues to attend the WheelPower classes and enjoys using the resources that we created during the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst sports facilities were closed and clubs unable to meet the resources provided people like Henrietta a lifeline to meet others and to enjoy exercising together. After so many years of association with WheelPower we are happy we can continue to support Henrietta to stay active and we wish her all the very best with the forthcoming boccia and powerchair football seasons.