Lift off for London 2012 legacy with challenge

Harold Darbon receives the Paul Harris Fellowship from Prue Dixon (left) and Debbie Hodge
Harold Darbon receives the Paul Harris Fellowship from Prue Dixon (left) and Debbie Hodge

A big-hearted initiative that started in Bedford after the Paralympic Games is set to be rolled out across the country.

The Wheelchair Legacy Challenge (WLC) was the brainchild of London 2012 Bedford training camp manager and former teacher Howard Darbon, who saw first-hand how much sport enhanced the confidence and personal development of the Paralympic athletes based in the town.

Wheelchair competitor Chris Jayes

Wheelchair competitor Chris Jayes

He said: “As ‘legacy’ featured highly in the successful London bid, the concept of the Challenge was born.

“And with enthusiastic support from local Rotary clubs – many of whose members volunteered during the Olympics – the event has gone from strength to strength.”

Former Rotary president David Whitehead, who was involved with the training camp, said: “This is a wonderful way to remember the 2012 Paralympic Games which gave so much enjoyment to the whole country.”

Since its inception in October 2012, the WLC has raised more than £22,000 to support the development of sport for disabled people.

Three young disabled sportsmen have already been given grants that will enable them to develop their talents.

They are quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player Gary Cox, hearing-impaired tennis player Ciaran McCarthy and para swimmer Aaron Hird, who suffers from a muscle-wasting condition.

The Challenge has two parts – a relay of four able-bodied or disabled people competing over a 4 x 50m course, and an individual trial taking on a 400m course (one lap of the athletics track).

Part of Rotary International’s Paralympic programme was the Rotary Wheel Appeal which led to a formal partnership between Rotary and WheelPower, the organisation behind British wheelchair sport.

Howard Darbon was also given Rotary’s highest award, a Paul Harris Fellowship. This is rarely presented to non-Rotarians.

Planning has already started for this year’s WLC which takes place at the Bedford Athletic Stadium on Sunday, October 9.

It will be bigger and better than ever and organisers hope to attract teams and individuals from families, schools, community groups and businesses.

Committee chair Keith Franks said: “We’re looking forward to raising more money for sport for the disabled this year, especially having received a Pride in Bedford Award last year.”

> www.rotary-site.org/wheelchair-challenge or wheelchairrelay@rotary1260.org.uk