Volunteering with WheelPower - Daniel's Story

Daniel has volunteered for WheelPower for 15 years and supports the team three days a week with a variety of office tasks relating to both sport and fundraising events. Over this time Daniel has given many hours to the charity and during Volunteers Week 2021 we will be telling his story.

“Hello everyone and thank you taking the time to read my story. I hope you find it interesting and that it may inspire you to take up a voluntary role in your local area. Volunteering for WheelPower has been life changing for me and I continue to enjoy it to this day.”

My Story

Daniel is now 43 and he lives in Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire with his family. He was born with Spina Bifida and is now a full-time wheelchair user. As he explains though this wasn’t the case when he was younger.

“I started my life in Chesham where I started to walk a little but I was living in a house and I found that as I began to walk, there was no possibility of me managing the stairs, so my family moved to a bungalow in Aston Clinton, a village near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.  I could walk with crutches until I was about 16 but the crutches began to snap and although I replaced them I was now putting more and more pressure on them until my legs gave way. I then became a full-time wheelchair user and have been ever since. As well as spina bifida I also have development hydrocephalus, which doesn’t affect my mobility but it does cause me spatial awareness issues.”

The Importance of Sport

Daniel attended mainstream school and during this time he accepted many sporting opportunities and took on a variety of challenges from wheelchair basketball to skiing! One of Daniel’s proudest moments was attending the Kennet Games near Croydon with the school. “When I was a kid at secondary school I went to the Kennet games. I won loads of medals! 5 golds and 2 silvers and a cup for most outstanding competitor. It was multi sports but one of the things I remember most was table tennis. I played the eventual winner and lost easily! I have the trophies still, and they are probably in the loft gathering dust!”

As well as playing wheelchair basketball and archery, Daniel was also part of a group that attended regular ski trips to the Alps. “I went to the uphill ski club of Great Britain. When I was a child I went to Austria and Italy about 3 times and there are some photos of me skiing with outriggers. I didn’t fancy a sit skiing as I felt it was more like tobogganing!”

As the years have passed though it has been the sport of Boccia that Daniel now enjoys playing the most. “Boccia is so adaptable to different types of disabilities and it’s so simple to learn. The only objective is to propel your coloured balls closer to a jack ball than your opponent and if you cannot do this by hand, there are different types of ramp - even headpieces - you can use to achieve this, so it’s suited to people with a broad range of disabilities. As I’ve got older I don’t feel I have the energy to play such fast paced games anymore and I now enjoy the slower pace of boccia much better.”

Daniel demonstrating Boccia at the Inter Spinal Unit Games 2019

Before the Covid-19 pandemic Daniel was also taking his own boccia group at Stoke Mandeville Stadium that invited local people to come and try the sport in a fun and friendly setting. As he explains, “Some weeks were a bit quiet at first but before lockdown we had started to get some regulars coming along and it was going quite well. I hope it will be able to restart soon as I’ve really missed meeting people and the social side of playing the game.”

Work Experience & Volunteering

Before taking on a role at Stoke Mandeville Stadium Daniel had previously worked at the Big Oxford Computer Company where he supported his colleagues to design websites. “I was helping the team with various things and I remember having one project with English Nature. Using technology and working on computers is something I am confident doing and I always enjoyed working on these projects.”

As a local Buckinghamshire resident Daniel was no stranger to Stoke Mandeville and he had regularly attended swimming sessions at the pool since he was a child. A chance meeting with Jean Stone led to him supporting her with various tasks. Jean was herself a long term volunteer with British Wheelchair Sports Federation, as it was then known. “At this time I was doing some work experience with Jean at the stadium. It was good experience and I used to help her with general office work initially. I was a teenager, so I didn’t know a lot and she helped introduce me to people. She was a very active WheelPower volunteer who has sadly passed away now.”

After leaving his previous job Daniel approached WheelPower after seeing a poster saying they were looking for volunteers. “I was aware of the charity through previous involvement with their sport activities. The first person I met was Paul Rushton who was my main boss at the time, and then Martin McElhatton , who were the 2 key people I got to know straight away. Nigel was the head of finance and Jo I also met. I was doing lots of admin type tasks initially, typing things up and doing spreadsheets and sometimes filing. Later, I was responsible for some data entry work into a database. I was happy and it kept me busy. I was going 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday which is much the same as I am doing now.”

For Daniel volunteering was an opportunity to build his skills and experience and then move to paid work. Unfortunately as he explains he wasn’t able to do so. “Volunteering is a great way of being in work, as I felt that it would be a stepping stone to getting paid work elsewhere. Over time, due to health concerns, achieving that goal is no longer feasible but I continue to volunteer as much as I can and feel that overall it’s been a very positive experience that has really helped my independence.”

“Volunteering for WheelPower has been great and seeing first hand the sheer enjoyment that sport brings to those we help is amazing. It’s so obvious that they get so much out of our events and the benefit that brings to their lives. I think my favourite event is the national junior games. It’s just so busy, so much to do, so many people to talk to. I also help with the Tour de Vale annual charity bike ride and have been a marshall over many years now.”

“It is great to be part of an organisation like WheelPower and be a part of these events at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. I also loved going to the Paralympic heritage flame lighting in 2012, which really was excellent.”

Left: WheelPower Office selfie! Right: Daniel marshaling at the Tour de Vale

Favourite WheelPower Memory

“Some years ago, I was asked to research the agents of different sporting figures and contact details for sports teams, across a number of mainstream sports. I wrote to them all asking if they would be willing to send us any items, preferably signed, for us to sell in a charity auction. Contrary to my expectations, we received quite a positive response: items such as a signed photograph of the England cricket team and a banner from Manchester United, signed by a few of the players. The items made lots of money at the auction, and I even bid on some myself.”

Working and Exercising during the pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for Daniel and he really has missed spending time with the team at Stoke Mandeville Stadium. As he explains, “I have missed the social interaction of volunteering more than anything. Meeting people and talking to people. It’s been very lonely and I’m just glad I have my parents otherwise I’d be going mad.”

Daniel has kept himself busy during this past year and regularly attends WheelPower staff meetings to update the team on how he is doing. “I have a desk in my bedroom so that I can continue to do work but I haven’t been able to do much volunteering at all. Thankfully I have found other things to do such as a few online courses. I started a boccia course run by Boccia England but I didn’t get through it before lockdown and I have also been doing a sports training course online. I am still finishing that now which keeps me busy.”

Daniel also really missed the extra opportunities of being active that he had from attending Stoke Mandeville each week. “Before Covid I used to go swimming but I haven’t done that for a while for health reasons. I also used to use the gym about 3 times a week but obviously I’ve not been able to do that either. I plan to go back when I start volunteering again but I’ve not felt the motivation to go to the stadium just for that reason. If I had a goal to do so it might have been different but I have actually been keeping fit at home and have even lost weight!”

Daniel tells us that he is exercising about 3 times a week from home and within his local area. He has also benefited from a set of resistance bands and has used some of the WheelPower resources to help him to stay active from his home. “Since lockdown I bought some resistance bands and I also go for walks around the village and to Wendover woods. Sometimes I go alone but with the woods I normally have my family there to help with the hills! With so much time at home I have enjoyed watching a lot of football on TV.”

As we head into the Summer of 2021 and with restrictions now easing Daniel is hoping to return to Stoke Mandeville Stadium soon, to do some more volunteering, use the gym and to bring his Boccia group back together again.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to Stoke Mandeville, playing sport and meeting people when it’s possible to do so again. I am also looking forward to helping WheelPower with the 2021 Tour de Vale with various mailings, promotion and by marshalling on the day itself.”

“Over 15 years I have really enjoyed volunteering with WheelPower. I have seen the value in what they do and how life-changing our activities are for the people we help and that above else is why I felt a desire to stay longer-term and continue to volunteer to this day.”

Thank You from WheelPower

Jo Hall (Events Fundraising and Finance) has been working with Daniel since he first joined the charity and is very grateful for the support he has given to the charity.

“Daniel is a valuable member of the WheelPower team and has been volunteering for the past 15 years, visiting the office 3 times per week. Daniel is happy to help with any task that needs doing, whether it’s assisting with admin for the Tour de Vale, researching on the internet, promotional mail outs or marshalling at our events. He always makes himself available and keen to support the wider team in anyway he can. He is also a recently qualified boccia coach, and volunteers at our sport events too. Thank you Daniel from everyone at WheelPower!”

Thank you so much to Daniel for sharing his story with us and for everything that he has done over so many years to support WheelPower and encourage more disabled people to get active and enjoy sport. Without dedicated volunteers like Daniel WheelPower could not reach the amount of people we do and we can’t thank him enough for his continued support.

If you would like to get involved in wheelchair sport and would like to find out more about how you too can become a WheelPower volunteer then please do get in touch with us (we have a variety of roles available and this could be office based, event based or fundraising) email: info@wheelpower.org.uk

z-Fundraising Regulator Logo