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Amazing night at the Nationwide Disability Sports Awards 2012

Last night EFDS and its events programme, Disability Sport Events, celebrated a fantastic year of sport for disabled people. Nearly 300 guests joined stars of the present and future at The Point, Lancashire Cricket Club in Manchester for the Nationwide Disability Sports Awards 2012.

Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey MP attended as well as cyclist Jody Cundy, athlete Shelly Woods, and swimmers Matt Walker and Natalie Jones. After a drinks reception and three course dinner,  the audience was treated to an interview on stage with Jody and Shelly, who spoke about their achievements in 2012. Hosted by Paul Dickenson, the pair emphasised the importance of finding future stars and hoping for young challengers in their sport.

EFDS Vice President, John Amaechi OBE then took to the stage to welcome the guests. His speech had the room inspired with motivational stories of volunteers he had met within the Disability Sport Events programme. He emphasised that the “legacy of sport” is everyone who was in the room last night- to encourage more disabled people to take part, support inclusive sport and enjoy participation at every level.

Then, the junior awards began presented by Esther McVey MP. These were awarded to young talented stars from the Junior and Youth Swimming Championships, the Festival of Sport and National Junior Athletics Championships run by Disability Sport Events throughout 2012. They were:

  • Jack Thomas- swimming
  • Craig Harris- swimming
  • Hannah Russell- swimming   
  • Eleanor Simmonds- swimming             
  • Josef Craig- swimming
  • Alice Tai- swimming
  • Toby Sweeney-Croft- Festival of Sport                         
  • Vanesa Garzova- Festival of Sport                                         
  • Cedar School, Southampton- Festival of Sport                       
  • Lewis Edwards- athletics                                           
  • Maria Lyle- athletics                                                  
  • Abbie Hunnisett- athletics                             
  • South West- athletics         

Next up, were a new set of awards funded by Nationwide Building Society for 2012. Ten lucky talented disabled athletes found out they had won £1,000 each to support their development in their sport.

They were:

  • Boccia player Jacob Thomas from Pembrokeshire. An avid boccia player was our first Nationwide Rising Star. The 18 year old who has played boccia for the last eight years is a member of the Boccia Blasters Club in Cardiff. Jacob was selected for ParalympicsGB for London 2012 and is currently ranked 17th in the world in the BC3 category.
  • Triathlete Liz McTernon from Louth in Lincolnshire. Involved in Paratriathlon for the last 18 months, but in that time Liz has won three silver and two bronze medals at the World and European Championships, and went on to win gold at the National event.
  • Paracanoeist Dan Hopwood from Stockport. Dan was introduced to paracanoeing in 2005, when he canoed the Mississippi River in a Canadian canoe with two friends – a total of 2,350 miles. He has gone on to compete at international level, winning gold at the World Championships in 2012. Rio is firmly on this guy’s agenda as he aims to represent ParalympicsGB in 2016.
  • Wheelchair dancer Paula Moulton from Manchester. Paula has been competitively wheelchair dancing for the last two and a half years. The Manchester based dancer is a member of the highly acclaimed Strictly Wheels dancing group who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012.
  • Track athlete Jordan Howe from Cardiff. Jordan has been competing for the last seven years. The T35 athlete is now the 100m European record holder and was selected for ParalympicsGB at the London 2012 games, finishing seventh in the final.
  •  Wheelchair fencer Gabi Down from Milton Keynes. Gabi started wheelchair fencing at the age of 11 and is a member of the Touche Fencing Club in Milton Keynes. Selected for ParalympicsGB for the London 2012 games saw Gabi compete for her country at the highest level. Now studying for her GCSEs, she is committed to her training regime and hopes to compete in Rio in 2016.
  • Sitting volleyball player Julie Rogers from Bedford. Playing sitting volleyball for the last two years, Julie is a member of the Loughborough Lions. She was the youngest member of the ParalympicsGB Sitting Volleyball team at the London 2012 games.
  • Judo player Jack Hodgson from Gainsborough. Practising judo for the last ten years, Jack is a member of the Cherry Judo Club in Gainsborough. Currently ranked in the top three in the country, he has been tipped as a contender in Rio in 2016. 
  • Skier David Corr from Chorley in Lancashire. David has been skiing since he was five years old. He was selected to take part in the British Special Olympics Championships in Italy and came third in the GS and Super G events – an incredible achievement. He aims to compete in future World Special Olympics Ski Championships.
  • Swimmer Megan Atkinson from Peterlee. As soon as Megan, 11, began swimming at her local club it became apparent that she was a talented athlete. Now training seven times a week she is focussed on improving her times so she can compete at the 2016 games in Rio.

All were presented with trophies on stage by Natasha May from Nationwide and Adam Blaze, Strategic lead for disability from Sport England.

Five Star Club awards were also part of the Nationwide 2012 funding. This recognised clubs or groups who are brilliant examples of inclusive opportunities at local level with £2,000 each.


Presented by former footballer Brian Deane and David Parry from Nationwide, they were:

  • SportsAble Club in Maidenhead. A multi sports club, founded in 1975 with 250 disabled members taking part in archery, athletics, boccia, bowls, golf, kurling, rowing- to name just a few. They have seen many champions come through their doors.
  • Simply Cycling in Manchester. Founded in 2004, this group have 450 disabled members and a total of 600 members. They ensure they can include everyone no matter ability or impairment.
  • Northern Thunder Powerchair Football Club in Newcastle. This club was founded in 2006 and has 20 members who train twice a week at the Percy Hedley Sports Academy. They travel around the country to showcase their talent and love of their sport to increase participation.
  • Hackney Hurricanes athletics club in London. Only established this year, this club has recruited a team of volunteers to help drive the club, along with a dedicated coach. The volunteers will all be qualified as a level one coach so they can support the athletes joining the club. They have shown great initiative in ensuring all young disabled people have access to their activities.
  • The Boccia Epsom and Ewell club, based in Surrey. Founded in 2005, this club is a thriving inclusive club for boccia players. The 40 strong membership are also offered the opportunity to train as a referee and coach- a great way of developing the sport at all levels. The club’s emphasis is always on playing serious boccia in a fun and friendly environment.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the events programme. Two of them were recognised for their time in 2012 by John Amaechi OBE and Josie Grange, ASA President. One for national events contribution and the other for regional events:

Award for contribution to National Events- Helen Hallam. Helen is a young dedicated person, who not only gives up her weekends as a Physiotherapist to profile young disabled people for grassroots sport, but also has given up all her spare time in the last two years to organise the full presentation management of the International Disability Swimming Championships. This year, she was in charge of the Paralympic Swimming Trials in Sheffield for Disability Sport Events as a volunteer! All because she showed an interest in music for warm ups!


Award for contribution to Regional Events- Ros Alterman. Ros has dedicated all her spare time to athletics. She has been an official on the field for UK Athletics and Disability Sport Events for many years. This year, she looked over the field for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Every year, this individual organises officials to be at the regional and national events taking place throughout the country. Without this- the regional athletics events simply would not run.

Former Premiership referee Uriah Rennie and EFDS’s CEO Barry Horne recognised the fundraisers who continue to support Disability Sport Events. They were:

  • As a charity, we seek support in many different ways. Copiertec have been supporting DSE for the last 14 years in supplying photocopier equipment at all the events. Their Director is always actively seeking ways to promote the charity which has included a few golf days now and again!
  • SLM began as a new corporate partner in 2012 and started their fundraising for DSE with a bang in September when 500 colleagues took part in a 1,342 mile bike relay around 74 of their national sites.
  • Paul Flint from KPMG. A man who ran the London Marathon for DSE in April of this year and was crowned the highest individual fundraiser raising over £3,500. I am delighted to award him the Individual Fundraising award.
  • Abi Hann and Tom Minchington from the Holy Trinity Primary School. A Deputy Head of a Primary School and auntie to one of our very own athletes Tom Minchington. She ran a variety of fundraising events at her school to raise money for DSE, ensuring the pupils learned the importance of inclusion in sport.

The Graham Bool Lifetime Achievement Award is named after a dear friend of the events programme. Graham, a former wheelchair basketball athlete himself, turned a professional photographer when he retired from the sport. He worked at many Paralympics as a freelance photographer and attended near enough all DSE events to snap the action. Sadly Graham died suddenly in 2010 and the award has been given every year since to inspiring people, who have given up their time and skills for the cause.

There was not a dry eye in the house when Graham’s children- Jessica and Roger- took to the stage to read the tribute to the award winner. The room erupted when it was given to  Dr Derek Martin, doctor at Disability Sport Events and British Swimming for over 14 years. He was inspired many years ago to dedicate his time to swimming for disabled people when he met a local swimming coach. Paralympic swimmers Fran Williamson and Matt Walker were on stage to present Derek with his award. After, Derek explained more on how important volunteering is in sport for disabled people and why he kept giving up his time for the events:

“I am sitting with a young disabled swimmer on my table. She is the future and the legacy in sport for disabled people. We need to ensure future talent is encouraged”.


The evening was run thanks to Nationwide Building Society, who have supported the events programme since 2000. Their team were presented with a special canvas made up of photos from over the years in swimming and athletics. Natasha May, Citizenship Manager for Nationwide said:

“ We are really proud to have been part of the programme and seen so many athletes flourish”.


Britain’s Got Talent final stars Strictly Wheels brought the presentations to a close when they performed their famous routine to Empire State of Mind. Their dance floor routine impressed the audience watching, showcasing sport truly is for all, at whatever level disabled people want to take part.

Guests danced the night away until the early hours. EFDS and its programme Disability Sport Events would like to thank everybody who supported the night, making it one to never forget. The events programme relies on fundraising and sponsorship to continue our work. If you are interested in being a partner, we would love to hear from you. 

For more information on the night, contact Sarah Marl on 07764 291671