On December 11, my brother Will and I headed off to Frankfurt to take part in our first Special Olympics Europe Eurasia Inclusive Youth Activation Committee (SOEEIYAC) meeting, as the elected members to represent Great Britain.
It was a truly inspiring experience which we will never forget. We met with our fellow inclusive pair committee members from Bosnia, Cyprus and Serbia and began to set out our plans for the next two years in respect of shaping the future of the games.
Will and I have been selected to look at media representation as our area of responsibility for the next six months. We have been in contact with website builders, are linking in with the local teams in the UK and have lots of ideas to build upon. We will share our progress at the next SOEEIYAC meeting in June.
We are making fantastic progress with our own Play Unified project in school, having secured funding already and thanks to great support from members of staff in school, we hope to have an inclusive, co-leadership run sport/activity group happening in school very soon.
As a result of being elected to the SOEEIYAC and introducing Play Unified to Tadcaster Grammar, I have been asked to write a piece about my experience and feelings around my involvement in Play Unified/Special Olympics for publication in sporting and education media, magazines and journals.
On the January 22, Will and I attended a celebration tea at Gambaru Gym in Harrogate for all the Adversity Award winners, where we were presented with our personalised sports kits. It was a great evening where all the winners, friends and families were able to relax and enjoy each other’s company.
Stingrays is going from strength to strength. We have new members joining, the skills of the swimmers are improving dramatically and some of them have attended an ASA Para-swimming specialist skills improvement session. I am very lucky to have fantastic and invaluable support from David Wiseman, Invictus Games Captain, who has been kind enough to coach some of our sessions. What a great way to become even more motivated to swim!
In addition, I met with Nigel Adams in January in order to raise the profile of sport and disability and talk about Stingrays in particular. He visited the pool with David and myself and made a generous donation to help fund Stingrays and hence develop what we can offer the swimmers.
I have been invited to give a speech to the delegates and open the Youth Sport Trust 2017 Conference in Coventry in March. This is an enormous honour and opportunity to share my passion for ensuring that all young people have the same chance to succeed as their mainstream peers. I will be addressing about 1,000 delegates from fields of education, sport, leadership, commissioning and the press. I will be attending the gala dinner the night before and making the most of listening to the speakers and experiencing the workshops during the conference itself.
Will and I have been asked to accompany a group from Play Unified UK making a visit to the House of Lords on the March 30. We hope to engage and inspire senior members of the country’s leadership to ensure support for our cause. I remain determined to close the gap between what society offers young people with disabilities and what it offers those without. Whatever ability, we should all have the same opportunities.
Lastly, I would like to say how grateful I am to all the members of staff at Tadcaster Grammar School who have helped me in my endeavours.