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Eva Loeffler OBE is the daughter of Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, the founding father of the Paralympic Games and sport for the disabled at Stoke Mandeville. Eva is a qualified Physiotherapist (MCSP) now retired, and during the 1950's she worked briefly alongside her father at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Following on from her fathers work at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and the introduction of sport as part of the rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injuries Eva continued to show a keen interest in sports medicine and disability sport.
Eva has been recognised as the longest serving volunteer of the Paralympic movement. Eva volunteered at the first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 and continued to do so as the movement grew.
“During the Wheelchair Games at Stoke Mandeville I used to go along and help as one of the volunteers. I used to help pulling the arrows out of the archery butts and picking up the ball during table tennis matches. There was a wonderful atmosphere at the Games and I recall there was always an enormous party in the sports hall on the final evening.”
- Eva was the Chairman of the British Wheelchair Sports Foundation (formerly the British Paraplegic Sports Society, and now known as WheelPower) from 1990 to 1996.
Eva is now a Vice President of WheelPower and continues to support the work of the charity. Her commitment as a volunteer firstly as a member of the Executive Council (Board) for the charity and later establishing a London Fundraising Committee which has raised over £5 million for the charity over the years. It was in her capacity as Vice Chairman from 1986-1990 and then Chairman that Eva gave enormous time and energy to develop the opportunities for disabled people through sport and by providing facilities at Stoke Mandeville for national and international events.
Eva’s contribution to WheelPower was critical at a time in the charities history and she led the organisation with a steady hand when funding was difficult and balancing interests in Stoke Mandeville was challenging. More recently in her role as Vice President Eva is a figurehead and a link to our heritage of over 75 years a personal connection to her father and the Guttmann family.
It is true to say that thanks to Eva’s contribution many thousands of men, women and children with disabilities have enjoyed the tremendous physical and psychological benefits of participation in recreational and competitive sport. She helped with the creation of a National Junior Event and Inter Spinal Unit Games which continue today providing a legacy of opportunities for young and aspiring athletes. Her contribution to Stoke Mandeville Stadium is immense and she built the foundations to enable the centre to become more financially stable and ultimately be positioned for the major redevelopment which was completed in 2003.
Eva always focuses on the athletes and their achievements rather than their disabilities and this positive attitude to disability has influenced other organisations. She was a founding Director of the British Paralympic Association bringing to BPA a real sense of collective history and helping to ensure that in its early years BPA was seen as a creditable body representing all disability groups. BPA has subsequently gone on to be the organisation which prepares the GB Team for Paralympic Games so successfully and is regarded highly around the world.
Prior to the formation of the BPA Eva helped raise funds through major charity Balls and Events to fund the wheelchair sports team as part of the GB Paralympic Team and the athletes. It is impossible to measure the impact that Eva has had on disability sport. Following on from her fathers legacy she used her position to influence change and positive attitudes towards disability as well as raising substantial sums to fund and support Paralympic athletes prior to the establishment of the British Paralympic Association and the introduction of World Class Performance Funding for international athletes.
- Eva was appointed Mayor of the London 2012 Paralympic Village and was one of the first carriers of the Paralympic Flame as it made its journey from Stoke Mandeville to London (pictured with Baroness Masham)
Stoke Mandeville will forever be associated with Sir Ludwig Guttmann and Eva ensured that the pioneering work he did continued through a challenging time for disabled sport.