WheelPower Volunteer Case Study - Joyce Sheard

Joyce has an incredible association with WheelPower, having volunteered for the charity since 1980 when Joyce and her family first started running the snack bar and information desk at our national and international events held at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. The snack bar has since been turned into the WheelPower office bringing back many memories for Joyce when she joins us in her current voluntary role of fundraising and events assistant.

Running the snack bar allowed Joyce to see and hear about all the sports and activities going on at Stoke Mandeville during the growing number of events at the Stadium, that included the National Wheelchair Games, (National Games) and the International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Games, ISMWG (World Games). 

“One of my favourite memories of volunteering for WheelPower is from one of the National Junior Games when a little boy asked me for a hug. I had been over to his table to serve him his coke and biscuits and he explained to me that he had just won 2 gold medals and his mum wasn’t here to share the moment with him. I duly gave him a hug and went back behind my table and sobbed my heart out!”

Whilst serving homemade cakes, biscuits and drinks Joyce also got to meet the athletes, officials and the team at Stoke Mandeville Stadium which was the beginning of some long standing friendships that continue to this day, both at WheelPower and with the disability sports community.

“These activities gave me the opportunity to watch all of the sports which were taking place and I eventually decided the ones I enjoyed the most were those which developed individual talents.“

Joyce found the sport that interested her the most during this time was weightlifting (now ParaPowerlifting) and she would regularly support the British Team whenever possible.  In 1983 she was approached by the then Team Captain and asked if I would like to join the British Weightlifting Association for the Disabled (BWAD).  The main reason she was given was that she could, “out hoot and holla the Yanks and Aussies.” Joyce goes on to describes why she loves Weightlifting as a sport, “It’s you against yourself and I could fully appreciate the technique, hard work and dedication needed to compete.” From this early interest and then becoming a member of the BWAD, Joyce has since gone on to be the secretary and treasurer on multiple occasions and is also a IPC category 1 referee for ParaPowerlifting.

It could all have been quite different though as becoming a referee wasn’t the plan at the time as on one day back in 1991 at Stoke Mandeville Stadium it all changed. “I was taking my turn on the Information Desk during the Wheelchair Games when I was told I was needed urgently in the sports hall by the BWAD. I was greeted by the Technical Officer who informed me that I would be taking my National Referees Exam that morning due to women’s results now being included in the ranking list! So, I was handed the complete rule book, pages marked that I really needed to revise, at 11am I attended a seminar on the rules, at 12 noon sat the exam, passed and in the afternoon refereed the National Championships.”

Joyce has since taken several further referees exams and became a World and Paralympic standard referee for ParaPowerlifting. She has officiated at four Commonwealth Games, four Paralympic Games (including London 2012) as well as a multitude of International and National competitions across over 25 countries. As she describes, “It is like a big family. The officials and athletes are always pleased to see each other and understand that without each other there is no competition.” 

“This sport has enabled me to travel all over the world and I am very proud to be part of an international family of sportsmen and women, as well as all the friends I have made through WheelPower.”

For the last 13 years, Joyce has focused her volunteering work within the fundraising team at WheelPower. She has also been made an ambassador and visits local organisations and networking groups on behalf of the charity. Although not a fan of a big crowd and being “centre of attention”, Joyce tells a really good story and loves sharing this with others within the community.

“Knowing that what I’m doing at WheelPower is of benefit to others is why I love volunteering here. Working within WheelPower and the Paralympic movement means you are part of a wonderful international family and I sincerely hope I will be able to carry on for many years to come.”