Disabled Birmingham man’s gift to Welsh teenager
A 20-year-old disabled man from Birmingham, has raised over £1,500 for an 18-year-old student from Haverfordwest, in Pembrokeshire, who needs a specialist wheelchair to enable him to progress in the sport that he loves.
Owen Johnson, from Moseley, has cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition that affects his movement and coordination. When he was five years old he was unable to walk so his parents contacted Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families.
The charity agreed to fund a therapy that helps to improve the mobility of people with motor disorders and by the age of seven Owen was able to walk.
When Owen turned 20, earlier this year, he pledged to pay back his debt of gratitude to Caudwell Children and he registered for a charity skydive in order to raise vital funds for the charity.
And with just days to go before his tandem parachute jump, on Saturday 14th September, Owen has smashed his £1,500 fundraising target, and having discovered that the charity was fundraising for a specialist tennis wheelchair for Harry Thomas, he decided to donate the amount to his appeal.
“I was gobsmacked when I got a call from Owen,” said Harry, who is studying sports analysis at Cardiff Metropolitan University. “The money that Owen has donated will go towards the £5,574 that I need for a specialist sports wheelchair.”
Harry, who has spina bifida, a condition that restricts his ability to walk and stand for long periods of time, has been playing wheelchair tennis since becoming an undergraduate last year.
He trains twice a week at the David Lloyd centre in Cardiff and the sport has helped him to keep fit and make new friends.
“Each session is two hours long and they are really beginning to improve my technique and understanding of the game,” explained Harry. “However, I currently have to borrow a wheelchair from the club, which is far from ideal.
“Using a chair that hasn’t been set up for me specifically makes it more difficult to use and I’m at a disadvantage to the other players.”
Harry was advised by Caudwell Children that the specialist sports wheelchair that would best suit his needs would cost £5,574.
“Obviously this is way outside my student budget,” exclaimed Harry. “But now, thanks to Owen’s donation I’m well on my way.
“The charity has also secured a grant of £2,787 from the Edward Gostling Foundation, add this to Owen’s generous gift and I’ve nearly hit my target.”
Harry is appealing to the local community to raise the remaining £1,287 needed for his wheelchair in order to ensure his tennis career isn’t over before it has started.
“I love the game so much that over the summer I travelled the one hour and forty five minute journey from my family home in Pembrokshire to continue training,” enthused Harry. “I’m determined to become the best that I can be at the sport but without a chair of my own I may be unable to do this.”
Thanks to Owen’s donation Harry is a step closer to fulfilling his dream of owning a Grand Slam Tennis Sports Wheelchair. The specialist equipment will improve his agility and speed on court and take him to the next level in terms of performance.
Owen was delighted to have donated to Harry’s appeal. As he explained. “I’m passionate in my support of Caudwell Children after they helped me as a child.
“I wanted to see how my fundraising could directly affect a young disabled person like myself so when I found out about Harry’s appeal I was delighted to lend my support.
“If my fundraising can play a part in him achieving success on the tennis court I’ll be extremely happy as I believe every person, irrespective of their ability, should be given the opportunity to participate in sport.”
Mark Bushell, from Caudwell Children, hopes that the local community will get Harry’s appeal across the line. He said: “I’m urging the public to donate to Harry’s appeal as it will improve his life immeasurably.
“A staggering 78% of disabled children and young people don’t take part in activities outside the home, so with the publics support I’m sure that we can get Harry the specialist wheelchair that he so desperately needs, and deserves, to continue playing the game.”
You can support Harry through his Just Giving page here.