Sporting success and a Sport Legacy Fund
What sometimes go unseen are the years of hard training and parental backing (in terms of both time and money) that underlie sporting success. In recognition of this King James’ school Knaresborough has set up a Sport Legacy Fund to support students who are selected for national and international sporting events.
The Fund was the inspiration of Jan Lake, mother of 6th Form Foundation Learners student William, who has achieved international swimming success.
Here she explains the thinking behind the Fund:
William who was 17 in August has been a Pupil at King James since September 2009, he has Down syndrome and we have encouraged him in mainstream education throughout. At times it is a struggle for him, but he is a confident and popular boy at school (I’m told). He has always enjoyed sport competing in football against adults in the Special Olympics National games at Leicester in 2009. Their team won a silver medal. However he also swims and has represented Harrogate Hydro Hotshots, Yorkshire and the North East and was selected to swim for the Great Britain team of DSISO (Down Syndrome International Swimming Organisation) at the International Swimming Championships in Italy in 2012.
DSISO International Swimming Championship, Italy, 2012
All swimmers have to qualify under the same rules as any Olympic or Paralympics event and in order to gain the officially recognised qualifying times that are needed to be selected for Italy he entered both National & European Championships in Sheffield, Southampton, Reading, Durham and others. He took huge amounts off his personal best time for each of his strokes over the months confirming him as a worthy contestant in the DSISO World Swimming Championships in Italy in November. We thought it was a great opportunity for him to help with independence and self-esteem.
However the trip had to be self-funded as there was no sponsorship for the team.
We were incredibly proud of him. We then received details of the costs to send him as no funding or sponsorship was available. This included uniform, kit, transport, accommodation, coaches and carers plus hire of pool to train prior to competition. Our hearts fell as this was a huge amount to find, without any family going out to support him. Each family had to fundraise for their own swimmer. We held a bring-and-buy sale, cake sale and raffle. Friends were very generous too. I spoke to Mr Sugden at King James’ about a possible donation and the school was very generous but I didn’t want this just to be about William from the school’s perspective. King James’s has a number of very talented sportsmen and women and I thought it would be great to have a legacy of supporting these dedicated people through the funds raised at Sports Day. All sports cost parents a huge amount of time and money over the years and we don’t want to dampen their talent and enthusiasm so any help is always greatly appreciated as many don’t get any form of sponsorship.
William arrived home with two gold and two bronze medals, two European records and a trophy for being the youngest athlete at the Games (192 competitors from 23 countries). We thought it would just be a good experience for the future - never underestimate your child!!
DSISO International Swimming Championship, Mexico, 2014
Now almost 2 years on he has been selected again to represent Great Britain due to his hard work and training schedule along with National and European galas. The World Championships are in Mexico in November 2014. We have to find between £2,500 and £3,000 to get him there and have begun the fundraising effort again. The costs cover travel, accommodation, kit, hire of the pool for training sessions prior to the event, poolside coaches, and carers.
Down Syndrome – Cinderella Sport
Unfortunately although we have, and are still trying, to get team sponsorship it’s a fact that DS is not as exciting as Paralympics sports and although no-one could deny their enthusiasm that is the reason we have to fund our own participation. The other problem is that at Paralympic level there is no special category for Downs and they are classed as S14 which is for athletes with Learning Difficulties which of course disadvantages people like William as it does not take into account the physical conditions attached to Downs.
We wrote to Knaresborough Lions as we heard that they sometimes could help in cases like this and unbeknown to us they circulated other Clubs in the district and out of the blue we got a call from Stewart Reid of Wetherby Lions to tell us that they had voted to donate £1,000 to our appeal. We then heard that Knaresborough Lions had also pledged £1,000.
We have now reached our target plus a cushion for such items as attending training camps for the squad prior to departure for Mexico so they can train as a team for relays etc. We will also be able to buy spare goggles as William’s have his prescription built in and Cameron Beaumont in Wetherby have been very helpful in making this possible.
Our family is overwhelmed at the support William has received, it makes the daunting task of fundraising a little easier, but we could not have reached the target without the help of the Lions of Wetherby and Knaresborough. We cannot thank them enough for their support for William and the way they have taken up the challenge of supporting him in an ongoing capacity not just financially. So, when they are out fundraising please consider the enormous difference they make to the lives of ordinary people to enable them to achieve personal goals maybe otherwise denied to them. William is very excited and proud to have been chosen to go to Mexico to swim for Great Britain and he has his Union Jack flag ready to wave.
Perhaps by raising awareness of what people with DS are able to achieve they will get some support from the “Big Guns” such as Lottery Funding. They are representing their country! So hopefully the Lions, more than they realize, will have played a big part in DSISO becoming more accessible to good swimmers with DS and enabling GB to bring home the medals. William and family want to thank the Lions from the bottom of our hearts.
We now have enough to get him to Mexico and back! Whatever is left over will go into a pot for the next World Championships in 2 years time along with European championships in between being a possibility but we, and DSISO, need continuing support and if you can help please contact any member of your local Lions Club.
Will’s medal tally in Mexico
Will went to Mexico as planned in November and competed in the 7th DSISO (Down Syndrome International Swimming Organisation) World Championships in Morelia, Mexico.
Despite worries that he would struggle this year as he is still only 17 but he is now in the open category swimming with the adults. Despite that he surpassed himself and came home with four medals:
Gold - 25m Free 17.68sec
Silver - 25m Back 20.40sec
Silver- 25m Breast 21.36sec
Bronze- 50m Fly 41.54sec
The GB squad were treated like celebrities. They were bussed between the pool and hotel during the championships with police outriders. Wherever they went people were asking for their autographs. Will revelled in the attention as anyone who knows him knows he’s not a wallflower when it comes to attention!
Thank you all once again for your generosity in supporting Will. There is no way I could have got him to Mexico and the fantastic opportunity he had to travel there as part of the squad and the independence he learned being away from family in a country with very different culture, I feel indebted to you all for your support and help and would especially like to mention the following:-
Wetherby Lions, Knaresborough Lions and York Lions
Hunters – Wetherby
King James School & pupils & teachers
Harrogate Hydro Swimming Club
Down syndrome North Yorkshire
Caroline & Ash Wells & family
Lesley & Ian Kearney family & friends
Sheila & Peter Kendall & family
Sheena & Dave Morrow & family
Daren & Terry Overington Stump & colleagues
Jackie Bell & colleagues
The residents of Tockwith – you know who you are
Everyone who came to the tea & cake fundraiser and bought raffle tickets.