7 December 2023

On Thursday 7 December Stoke Mandeville based charity WheelPower welcomed 42 local disabled people to the 2023 Buckinghamshire Sports Festival. This one-day event gave participants of all ages the opportunity to try and experience a variety of wheelchair sports at the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement.

This free event was open to anyone with a physical disability and suitable for both children and adults, proving that age is no barrier to the enjoyment of sport! On the day there were 5 sports on offer, that included athletics, archery, boccia, pickleball and wheelchair rugby. All sessions were delivered by coaches from national governing bodies and local sports clubs, and supported by local volunteers to ensure that all participants enjoyed every moment of activity.

As well as learning new skills, and making fiends the emphasis of these events is about having fun and it is hoped many of those taking part will take away the confidence to join local clubs and continue to enjoy the many benefits that movement, activity and sport can bring to your life.

One of the people who took part was Trish, who said “It’s my first time at a WheelPower Sports festival and it’s been a really good day. I’ve never done archery before and I managed to hit the bullseye which was amazing, I’ve never done pickleball either which was a lot of fun, and I even did a bit of boccia too. As well as the sport it’s just been fun meeting other people I’ve never met before and getting my competitiveness on!”

Nigel is a current inpatient at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville, who told us “By doing more exercise I’m getting stronger each day and that helps me to be better at my transfers. Playing sport gives you that bit of freedom to actually know you are able to do things you could do before injury and I’m so grateful to WheelPower for giving us these opportunities that help us to keep progressing and make us better.”

Chloe and her 9 year old son Teddy are from Aylesbury, “Teddy has spina bifida and is completely obsessed with sport! Its been so good seeing him with people of a similar ages and abilities and I would absolutely recommend it to other parents. Teddy hasn’t stopped talking about how it was “the best day ever” and I can’t put into words how lovely that is."

Making its debut appearance at a WheelPower event was the sport of Pickleball, which is a bit of a mix or ‘pickle’ of badminton, tennis and table tennis! Lynn from the West Herts Wizards Club said, “Pickleball is a really accessible sport and one that you can pick it up quite quickly. Wheelchair users can play with and against standing players and we are now looking for new people to join our team. Thanks WheelPower for inviting us along, we’ve really loved it and had such a good day.”

WheelPower, the national charity for wheelchair sport delivers a calendar of life changing events for people with physical disabilities every year and the final festival of 2023 was a bit of a ‘homecoming’ for a charity who are based at the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, Stoke Mandeville Stadium. During the year over 150 people took part in the festivals and in 2024 new venues are to be added to the growing list of locations.

We spoke to Emily Weller, Head of Sport at WheelPower as she reflects on the past year, “The WheelPower Sports Festivals have become a really important part on our annual events calendar and we are thrilled to bring these fun packed days of sports to even more disabled people nationwide. The Bucks event this month was once again a huge success and we thank the local clubs, schools, coaches and volunteers who brought so much joy to Stoke Mandeville. Sport has the power to change lives and we hope that the introduction of these sports will boost their confidence and motivations to join a local club and continue to enjoy the benefits that sport can bring.”

The Buckinghamshire WheelPower Sports Festival will return on 5 December 2024. Find out more about how WheelPower can support you by visiting www.wheelpower.og.uk