The volunteers who run a disability cycling club in Conwy are among the selfless heroes being thanked by Sport Wales for their efforts in helping to get people back in the game with the sports they love.
The Conwy Freewheelers Adapted Cycling Club, based in Colwyn Bay, is the only adapted cycling club aimed at giving disabled people the opportunity to ride and learn to ride that is run solely by volunteers.
This week marks National Volunteers’ Week (Tuesday 1st – Monday 7th June 2021), an annual campaign organised to recognise the contribution that millions of people make across the UK through volunteering.
Research conducted by Sport Wales indicates that 28% of adults in Wales would like to volunteer in sport in the next year, compared with only 5% of people who took part in volunteering within sport this last year. An increased uptake in volunteering is vital to keep organisations like the Conwy Freewheelers in action.
As Covid-19 restrictions lift, adapted cyclists like Lennon Hatton from Colwyn Bay, have been able to get back in the game thanks to a group of 10 volunteers.
Lennon Hatton is one of 30 members who currently attend the club. Describing how much the club has helped, Lennon’s mum, Kerry Hatton Jones said: “When Lennon first attended the cycling club he was reliant on using his wheelchair all the time and found it very difficult to leave the house to socialise. A lack of opportunities for him meant he felt very isolated and unable to do anything, and lockdown just exacerbated that.
“Freewheelers has massively improved Lennon’s confidence, self-worth and mobility. The opportunities that Lennon now has is all down to the volunteers here, and it wouldn’t have been made possible without them. These volunteers really have improved his life.”
The inclusive club, formed from a partnership between Disability Sport Wales, Conwy’s Leisure Development Team and Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, offers cycling opportunities for people of all abilities, particularly those with learning, sensory and physical impairments. This organisation relies on the group of 10 volunteers that offer up both their time and knowledge to help support the members.
Ben Lightowler, physiotherapist and the Conwy Freewheelers Adapted Cycling Club chairman, said: “There was a real need to develop more inclusive opportunities for people in the local area. Both children and adults with disabilities were really struggling to get out and join in any kind of activities because there was nothing available. I used to volunteer for a wheelchair basketball club, so I agreed to come on board with what just started out as a pilot scheme.
“Through funding supplied by Sport Wales, Conwy’s Intermediate Care Fund, Gwynt y Mor Fund and Rhyl Flats Fund,we now have a fleet of more than 20 adapted bikes for people of all abilities. Most people who come here have never been on a bike before, and some of them leave us having bought their own adapted bike and being able to join their family on an active bike ride. Everyone should have the opportunity to develop skills like cycling, it’s just about giving people the right support to do this.”
Sport Wales has launched a brand-new campaign, #BackintheGame, to help people across Wales to reconnect with sport and exercise.
Discussing the return to sport, Sarah Powell, CEO of Sport Wales, said: “We’re thrilled that it’s time for everyone to get back in the game and enjoy the huge benefits of sport and physical activity. We’re proud to be supporting clubs like the Conwy Freewheelers Adapted Cycling Club and want to thank volunteers across Wales for providing these inclusive opportunities.
“Our recent research shows that more than 1 in 4 people in Wales want to volunteer within sport. If you’re interested in getting involved, search ‘Volunteering Wales’, contact a local sports club or speak with the National Governing Body of a particular sport. It’s through the fantastic work of volunteers that we can ensure we can keep diverse opportunities available for all.”