Lauren is no stranger to Stoke Mandeville Stadium as someone who currently plays for the resident wheelchair basketball team, the Aces! She travels to training and games from her home in Dunstable, Bedfordshire and is loving playing this fast paced sport. To compliment her basketball Lauren was keen to come along to the 2023 Junior Games to try lots of other sports and to see if there were even more opportunities to experience sport locally.

She told us a bit more about her disability, “I’ve always had pain but it wasn’t until my teenage years that I realised that that wasn’t normal. We got some help as my joints are a bit wonky, and to use an  analogy whilst most people are made of superglue, I’m made of pritt stick! I also have a neurological condition that effects my nerve cells in my brain and I am a full-time wheelchair user.”

With her condition affecting her on a day to day basis the discovery of sport was of great important to her and has bought her so much jo since. She continues, “Playing sport fills me with happiness really, and I know that basketball is on a Friday and it allows me to relax and rest in the week. I’ve made some amazing friends and there is a constant support. If you go there and you’ve had a bad day they’ll lift you up and if they can’t they still support you. It’s great for physical health as well, and it’s made me a lot stronger which is good.”

Coming to the Junior Games was something Lauren was really looking forward to and after arriving at the Stadium she soon started to try some of the 20 sports on offer.

“I have tried pretty much every sport and the coaches and volunteers have been just amazing. You go to try a sport and if you are feeling a bit unsure they basically give you a lesson and you leave feeling like you have had some proper advice that you can take away. If you want to carry on with the sport you feel ready to go into it, and they fill you with confidence. Before doing fencing I was very nervous, but I tried it and I absolutely loved it and I got some details of a few clubs to hopefully go on and do a bit more.”

After coming to the Games we hope that Lauren takes away lots of confidence and new contacts to add even more sport to her weekly schedule. We wish her every success with the Aces this season and hope to see her at more WheelPower events in the future.

“Thank you WheelPower, its been amazing and a really good opportunity. It was my first year and everyone’s been lovely and really nice.”

A parents perspective (from Mum Louise) 

“Lauren fell ill 2 years ago now, she has high level hyper mobility and functional neurologic disorder (FND). About a year ago as part of her FND her legs stopped working so she’s a non-weight bearing full time wheelchair user.”

Discovering wheelchair basketball

“My husband was looking for a disabled sport that she could do to get her out of her house and try to get her to meet friends of her own age and the basketball club here at Stoke Mandeville was just the perfect place for her. She started coming along and she’s not looked back, she absolutely loves it.”

On Fencing at the National Junior Games

“She’s really enjoyed it and she’s tried everything. Lauren has been quite surprised at what she does like and her absolute favourite is fencing which was quite unexpected and is not the sort of sport you would think of. She just adored it and she’s going to look if she can take it up at a local club going forward.”

“Life has been a bit difficult over recent months so for her to come along and find things that she is good at is a really nice feeling and maybe we found a sport or two that she can take forward and combine it with the basketball.”

Final words …

“It’s hard to believe there is an event like this that is so dedicated to young people with some type of disability. There are children with all sorts of disabilities here, and they all can try the sports with different levels of assistance. Nobody is excluded and they can all give it a try and find the one they particularly like. The smiles on faces say it all. She has made friends, found new sports she loves, and that just wouldn’t be possible if WheelPower hadn’t of been there.”