The Waverley Para Games (supported by COINS Foundation and DFN Foundation) is an annual event dedicated to giving children with disabilities the opportunity to try a variety of sports, integrate with their peers and other schools and, for those interested, to compete.
A growing success, last year’s event attracted over 145 students aged 11-14 from schools across Surrey, including a team from our own, Stepping Stones School. One of the discussion points that was raised following the event was that it was great to have this participation day but what opportunities do young people have in-between? A lot of issues schools and parents face are related to access to suitable clubs and venues, transport or funding for transport and for parents with more than one child, finding the time to juggle various commitments also proves a challenge.
Having secured funding for the next 5 years this year’s event has been renamed the ‘Surrey Games’ and hopes to be bigger and better to attract students and schools throughout Surrey to get involved. The legacy of the London 2012 Paralympics has continued and awareness of disability sport continues to grow but more can be done to encourage year-round participation and enjoyment on both a social level as well as the competitive element. We don’t want this to be limited to just one day that will then be forgotten until the following year so in conjunction with Active Surrey, representatives from sports clubs will also be attending to see how they can work with schools and what opportunities they can offer.
Those with disabilities are at a greater risk of suffering from mental ill health. One of the factors contributing to this is the relationship between having a disability and the potential for social exclusion.World Health Organisation
Local Paralympic Champion and Surrey Games ambassador, Rachel Morris has been a huge supporter of the multi-sport event and continues to play an active role in its development as well as encouraging participation after the event.
Although similar events do exist throughout the UK, the opportunities for young people with disabilities to get involved and have the same experiences as their able bodied peers is limited. It would be great to see events like this all over the country on a more regular basis so that disabled sport is available at grass root level all the way up to top sport and the Paralympics. We all have to start somewhere, and as they say – the first step is always the hardest.