Teenagers appeal for specialist sports wheelchair
An 18-year-old young man from Haverfordwest, in Pembrokeshire, is desperately trying to raise funds for a bespoke sports wheelchair that will help him to progress in one of the sports he loves.
Harry Thomas, who has spina bifida, a condition that restricts his ability to walk and stand for long periods of time, plays wheelchair tennis.
Harry, who is studying sports analysis at Cardiff Metropolitan University, excels at sport and has represented Wales at wheelchair basketball since the age of 10, and Disability Sports Wales in wheelchair racing since 2017.
When the former Pembrokeshire College student began his studies in Cardiff, in September last year, he was keen to make new friends and improve his fitness further, so he joined Cardiff Wheelchair Tennis Club.
“The club train twice a week at the David Lloyd centre in Cardiff,” explained Harry. “Each session is two hours long and they are really beginning to improve my technique and understanding of the game.”
To allow him to play the game Harry currently has to borrow a specialist wheelchair from the club, but it’s 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,” he exclaimed. “I was advised that the specialist sports wheelchair that would best suit my needs would cost a whopping £5,574, which was obviously way out of my student budget!”
Without a specialist chair Harry’s tennis career could be over before it’s started. He said: “I love the game so much that during the summer I’m travelling the one hour and forty five minute journey from my family home in Pembrokeshire, to continue training.
“I’m determined to become the best I can be at the sport but without a chair of my own I fear I’ll be unable to do this.”
The Grand Slam Tennis Sports Wheelchair that Harry needs is perfectly designed to improve his agility and speed on court. However, whilst he knows it would take him to the next level, the financial barrier initially appeared to be insurmountable.
But now, thanks to fundraising support from Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families, Harry has started a campaign to help raise the money needed for the new chair. He said: “The charity has already helped me to contact a number of different organisations including; charities, rotary clubs and masons lodges.
“However, I want to appeal to the public and the business community and ask them to give me a helping hand. With their support I believe I may have a good future in the game.”
Mark Bushell, from Caudwell Children, hopes people will get behind Harry’s appeal. He said: “This piece of equipment will improve Harry’s life immeasurably. Unbelievably, there are 70,000 children and young people in the UK who would benefit from the correct mobility equipment, including specialist sports wheelchairs.
“I’m urging the public and business community to get behind this appeal. With the Wimbledon tennis championships highlighting how enjoyable the sport is, particularly quad wheelchair tennis, there couldn’t be a more fitting time to launch Harry’s appeal.
“With the public’s support we can ensure that Harry has 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.