12 September 2018
Your support helps children with disabilities improve their physical and psychological wellbeing by going to Sports Camp, a club run thanks to donations.
Think back to when you were growing up. Imagine not joining in other children’s games, simply because you felt like you weren’t able to. Imagine missing PE because taking part felt too scary, or not being able to be part of a sports team because there were none available to you.
It’s hard enough as a child, sometimes feeling like you don’t fit in. But for children with disabilities, these common experiences can make their already challenging childhood even harder.
Becky Flannery is an Evelina London community physiotherapist based in Southwark and Lambeth. Her team works with children with a wide range of disabilities and physical difficulties, treating anything from knock knees to cerebral palsy.
‘We see a lot of children – particularly the ones with long-term disabilities - that don’t participate in sport,’ says Becky. ‘Partly this is a lack of understanding of what’s available. It can also sometimes be due to negative experiences of sport in the past. They might have tried things, but because they can’t do the same as the other children they have been put off.’
Exercise and sports bring important benefits to children with disabilities, such as improved cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and flexibility. Engaging with peers and improving confidence is also key to their psychological wellbeing.
Thanks to donors, the community physiotherapists were able to address the issues of children missing out on these benefits.
Donations have helped set up Sports Camp, a week-long event run in the summer holidays for children with disabilities. Activities such as gymnastics, archery, basketball and go-karting are available and a wide range of ability levels can take part, from children who can walk unaided to children who use walkers or wheelchairs.
Funds help to book a range of activities; there’s a disability sports coach running sessions on boccia and polybat, and even football run by Millwall FC.
‘The children really enjoy themselves and have an amazing time,’ says Becky. ‘That’s one of our biggest achievements because we want to show them that sport can be fun. PE can be a lot of these children’s least favourite subject sometimes because they don’t enjoy the activities, so showing them that they can enjoy sport was a massive benefit.’
Another fantastic outcome was showing parents sports that are
available to children with disabilities which they may not have known
about, and putting them in touch with local coaches.
Aida Hagos’ eleven-year-old son, Evenez, has cerebral palsy. He attended Sports Camp in 2014, the first year it ran.
‘It was helpful for him because there’s not that many activities that he can do in his wheelchair, but at Sports Camp he was so happy he could play the sports that they provided,’ says Aida. ‘He tried sports that he’d never tried before, that we didn’t think it was possible for him to do.’
Having loved it so much at Sports Camp, Evenez is now a member of a wheelchair basketball club in Bermondsey, which he goes to every Tuesday. ‘He’s made lots of new friends through that - it’s definitely helped improve his confidence and happiness,’ says Aida.
A second successful year of Sports Camp has just run, with a wider range of activities on offer and higher attendance across the sessions.
‘It’s really good to have an impact like this on the children’s lives,’ says Becky. ‘Improving their strength, flexibility, balance and things like that in clinic is obviously important to their health, but what matters to the children is their hobbies and daily activities. So for them to enjoy a sport and meet other children like them is an amazing thing.
‘I had so many comments from them at the end saying things like, “this was the best day ever”. Comments like that are very sweet and touching.’