A wheelchair sports club founded by a former paralympic world record holder is going from strength to strength and attracting members from across North Wales.
Now they have been helped in a drive for more young sportspeople by a £2,000 grant for a junior sport wheelchair and a set of kit from the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT).
Rhyl Raptors was set up in 2010 by Mike Hayes, born with spina bifida and who competed in the pentathlon at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics and briefly held the 1500 metres paralympic world record.
He said: “I was a pentathlete and was in the first heat of our last event, the 1500 metres, when I set it and it was the fastest ever time but it only lasted as long as the second heat.
He said “I came back to Rhyl and in 2010 myself and some friends realised there was nothing locally for people with physical disability to play sport regularly so we set Rhyl Raptors up and it’s grown from there.”
It now caters for 60 regular participants aged from seven to the mid-70s from across North Wales along with friends and supporters who take the membership up to about 100 but they want to help more young people get into sport.
Mike added: “I was from Rhyl but went to Ysgol Gogarth a special school in Colwyn Bay which was excellent but now it’s much better with disabled children going to their local schools but there are still few opportunities for them to take part in sport.
“That especially true since Covid and that’s why we’re focused on giving them that chance including the benefits of the social aspects of being part of a sports club.
“The money we’ve been given will help us buy a children’s chair costing £1500 and new kit and that’s massive for us.
“The chair is quick and mobile. The frame is designed for contact and protection with anti-tip wheels so it’s very strong and very stable and it means more opportunities for young members.
“This is the most inclusive sport you can get because you can play as an able-bodied person and you can have mixed age and gender teams and while we mainly play basketball there are opportunities for other sports as well.”
Buying the new equipment was made possible by PCSO Sabrina Illman-Roberts who applied for the funding after meeting the group through her partner who is in a wheelchair and was a member of the Raptors.
She said: “My PCSO colleagues and I came down to the club to help out and we were so impressed with what they were doing, especially with the youngsters who are such a great bunch of kids.
We could see the fun they were having and being in a wheelchair puts everyone on the same playing field, in fact they are teaching us a few things”.
Sabrina applied for a PACT grant and it came through with PACT Chairman Ashley Rogers visiting the club and even having a go at wheelchair basketball.
He said: “It’s important that everyone should have equal opportunity to take part in physical activity which is incredibly important in improving mental and physical well-being.
“Those benefits have really positive effects on our communities and it is excellent to see PACT funding directly supporting Rhyl Raptors and to see the way the club is directly engaging with North Wales Police.
“This has come about because of Sabrina’s involvement with the club, and being a member of the Force has been pivotal in gaining this funding and it shows what a great catalyst PACT is for local clubs and organisations.”
The project is just one of many that have been supported by PACT, an independent charity launched in 1998 to support community initiatives, particularly those in which the police are involved.
In that time it has helped over 2,500 projects, investing over £1.6 million in communities across North Wales.
Ashley Rogers added: “For many who are involved in the projects, this is their first interaction with the police, so making this a positive experience can have profound consequences on their future life choices.
“From Gwynedd in the west across to Flintshire and Wrexham in the east, PACT continues to support projects that enable positive and sustainable community development and this has never been more important than right now in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
PACT offer a range of grants of up to £2,000 for community projects – for more details and how to apply go to https://www.pactnorthwales.co.uk/applications-ceisiadau/