Sunday 24 February 2019

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Cork Independent


Rebel Wheelers mark 10 years

Wednesday, 20th June, 2018 4:54pm

It's a big month for the Rebel Wheelers.

The local organisation that provides sport training facilities, instruction, and equipment to children and young people in wheelchairs will celebrate ten years in operation this weekend with a gala ball at the Rochestown Park Hotel.

A fortnight later, four members will travel to Athlone to compete in the IWAS Youth World Games, generally known as the Junior Paralympics, and showcase the skills they have achieved through Rebel Wheelers' support.

The Games, held under the auspices of the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation, will see 300 athletes from as far away as Thailand, America and the UAE, compete in athletics, swimming and table tennis. Rebel Wheelers' entrants to the Games will compete in javelin, discus, shot put, 100m, 400m, and 1500m events.

“There's nothing they can't do, they just do it a different way,” said Ellen Lucia Ryan, who handles press for the organisation and whose son, Cathal, is one of the athletes going to Athlone. She credits the London Paralympic Games in 2012 with opening many people's eyes to the capacities of wheelchair athletes.

The Cope Foundation in Montenotte provides access to its facilities for Rebel Wheelers on Saturdays. There, “we introduce the smaller children to sport, through play more than anything,” said Ms Ryan.

Instructors from a wide variety of sports volunteer their time to teach the children the basics of hurling, football, judo, zumba, boxing, wall climbing, kayaking, and more: “We've done it all. We've tried everything,” she said.

Once the kids reach the age of eight or nine, they choose a direction and join individual training nights in their particular area of interest.

Different sports require different types of wheelchairs and these are expensive. A wheelchair designed for rugby can cost as much as €5,000-€6,000.

Rebel Wheelers relies on funding from grants and donations to support members in their pursuits.

Ms Ryan said the group is still working hard to make sure families with children in wheelchairs know that the organisation and its resources are available. Flyers at Enable Ireland are snapped up as quickly as they can be replenished.

“You still have an awful lot of young families who are out there searching, most of it is word of mouth,” she said.

Sandra McCarthy, whose 17 year old son has been a member for the past eight years, said that because of Rebel Wheelers, families who didn't see a way for their children to achieve anything in sport now watch them travel and bring home medals from around the world.

Ms McCarthy said the gala ball on Saturday 23 June will recognise how far the organisation and its kids have come. “Starting from nowhere, and now to be at a Paralympic level, some of these children, we're celebrating that fact. We've helped so many kids over the years to achieve their dreams and achieve their potential,” she


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