Helen Krauze writes
EVERYONE deserves a sporting chance, regardless of ability. An absolute abundance of sports opportunities was enjoyed by our members and the wider community at Talkback’s Festival of Sport and Fun.
What an amazing day! From the minute you entered the Stoke Mandeville Stadium complex, you could feel the sheer joy and positivity. In an inclusive environment, there was something for everyone, from racquet sports, meditative exercise, ball sports and dance, through to adaptive cycling and boxing. Welcoming and not too overwhelming, we also had quieter areas, places to sit and gentle activities, such as Qi Gong and Boccia.
We wanted people to have the opportunity to try something new and think – ‘I can do this, and I’d like to do more’. The short, fun sessions included parents and carers too, if they wanted to join in. There were stalls with information on other activities in the community, such as walking, climbing and riding.
The event was enthusiastically hosted by our dedicated staff, alongside our trusted sporting partners; including – Leap, Halton Tennis Club, Wycombe Badminton Club, Net Positive, Aylesbury Boxing Club, Active In the Community, QI Therapy, Aylesbury United FC, Climbquest, Talkback Back to Nature Walks, Simply Walks, Better Points and Love Exploring, Riding for the Disabled, Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Paralympic Heritage Centre, Wycombe Wanderers FC, Smiles FC, and more.
Funding from Leap enabled us to provide 10 different sports at one event, run by coaches and clubs who are experienced in running sessions for people with a learning disability and autistic people. A real success, 145 people attended! They came from far and wide, accompanied by staff from supporting living homes and daycare centres, along with parents and carers. These are the important people who enable our cohort to access physical activity and they experienced first-hand the positive impact that sports had on participants.
And that’s not all! Free follow-on or ‘pathway’ activities and sessions in the community were available for people to sign up to on the day, or to take away information. It’s not just for one day, we want people to continue their sporting adventures and some have done just that.
Mel Ogle, Aylesbury Boxing Club said:
“In the past three weeks since the event, we’ve had at least 4-5 people come through the door.”
Aylesbury United Football Club said:
“We’ve had lots of interest since the event. Thank you so much for reaching out and inviting us to the Sports Festival Event. It has helped our team so much already and I know the adult volunteers and players who attended felt valued and appreciated that day!”
One Talkback member finds social situations and changes challenging. He enjoys sports and plays for Ayelsbury United Inclusive Football Club, but otherwise is very isolated at home. He prefers to spend hours walking his dogs around Aylesbury and often gets into arguments when he thinks people don’t like his dogs. He came to the Festival of Sport to help out with the football but discovered he enjoyed boxing. The boxing club is only around the corner from where he lives, so he independently went along and joined up. This is an achievement in itself but he will benefit hugely from being in a club which is part of his own community, engaging in a new social environment. Other benefits include additional exercise and learning self-discipline and boundaries through boxing, which will hopefully help him manage his behaviour and mental health.
The beaming smiles witnessed on the day (worn by participants and staff alike), are borne out by the feedback we received:
“It was a great day. I won the netball competition and want to go to the netball sessions.” – TE
“I liked being out in the community. It was really buzzing and I’d like to do it again.” – UG
“I felt very comfortable and confident playing netball and Boccia and want to find out more about the forever cycling sessions.” – JB
“It helped to try new sports and meet other people. I want to do more badminton,” – JG
“Loved the Qi Gong sessions. I feel so calm. I feel I can cope better now.” – CW
“We had an amazing day. We brought our daughter Emily along and she has pretty much had a go at everything and loved it all. Thank you, an event like this is so needed.” – Wendy Tomlinson, parent and Chair of N Bucks Downs Syndrome Group
The way the staff team worked on the day really made a difference in people’s experience at the Festival. They were so welcoming and supportive, staying with individuals and groups of people, constantly encouraging and enabling them to try something new. I also think they really had a fun day too. I love it when we have days like that at Talkback.
The Festival of Sport and Fun will go down in Talkback history as one of our most successful events. A wonderful time was had by one and all. How can we follow that? Watch this space for the next sporting chances!