Their Mission Statement
The British Wheelchair Sports Foundation (BWSF) is the national organisation for wheelchair sport in the UK. Based at the national wheelchair sports centre in Stoke Mandeville, the Foundation exists to provide, promote and develop opportunities for men, women and children with disabilities to participate in recreational and competitive wheelchair sport.
The Centre has become known as the 'home of wheelchair sport' and the 'birthplace of the Paralympic Games'. It owes its existence to Sir Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist at Stoke Mandeville Hospital who believed passionately that access to sport played a vital role in the rehabilitation of those suffering injury or disease to the spine. In 1944 he founded the National Spinal Injuries Centre and pioneered the integration of sport into the rehabilitation of spinal injury patients. The increase in strength, confidence and self-esteem brought about by participation in sport was incredible. Statistics show that prior to this innovation, eight out of ten spinal injury patients died within three years of paralysis. Now para- and tetraplegics lead active and fulfilling lives, mainly thanks to the incredible innovation wrought by this dedicated doctor. More than 50 years on, BWSF aims to ensure that Sir Ludwig's legacy lives on.
"If I ever did one good thing in my medical career, it was to introduce sport into the treatment and rehabilitation programme of spinal cord sufferers and other severely disabled." (Sir Ludwig Guttmann, The Reader's Digest, 1967)
Each year the Foundation organises and hosts four major sporting events, catering for a wide range of ages and levels of disability.Inter Spinal Unit Games
In April, the Inter Spinal Unit Games provide an opportunity for recently injured spinal cord patients from all over the UK to meet up and try out different sports under the guidance of experienced athletes and coaches. Accompanied by physiotherapists and staff from their Spinal Units, participants begin to find a new direction to lives which have been so recently and radically altered. The Games aim to provide a unique opportunity to help them improve the quality of their lives through sport.HSA Healthcare National Wheelchair Championships in association with Sportsmatch
In June, the HSA Healthcare National Wheelchair Championships in association with Sportsmatch, accommodate 350 senior athletes competing in archery, track and field athletics, bowls, fencing, handcycling, powerlifting, wheelchair rugby, shooting, snooker and table tennis. The Championships provide many BWSF sports associations with the stage to host their major national event of the year and their members with the chance to compete for national honours. In 2000, the Nationals also afford excellent preparation for Britain's top athletes in the run up to the Paralympic Games in Sydney in October.National Junior Games
In September, BWSF facilitates access to sport for young people with disabilities aged 12-18 through its National Junior Games. With both competition and have-a-go events in a wide range of sports, the event is aimed both at keen sports players and at those who have yet to experience the huge benefits that sport can offer. Many of Britain's top class wheelchair athletes such as Tanni Grey and powerlifting World Record holder, Emma Brown began their sporting careers at the National Junior Games. Teenage table tennis talent, Mark Palmer is still a regular participant.Primary Sports Camps
In March 1999, the Foundation hosted its first Primary Sports Camp, to cater for children too young to attend the Junior Games. Children as young as 6 and up to the age of 11 are encouraged to use sport as a means to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which helps prevent illness and makes everyday tasks easier. Building on the tremendous success of the initiative, with 60 children from around the UK attending alongside parents and staff, BWSF nearly doubled the numbers attending the 2000 Camp at Stoke Mandeville, and plans to complement it with other similar Camps around the UK during the next eighteen months. With a comprehensive programme of athletics, basketball, boccia, bowls, fencing, handcycling, polybat, short tennis, swimming, table cricket and zone hockey the regional Camps will further facilitate access to wheelchair sport for young people with disabilities.Wheelpower Sports Awards
In addition, the Foundation also hosts the annual Wheelpower Sports Awards, sponsored by First National Motor Finance, to celebrate the outstanding achievements of Britain's wheelchair athletes and all those involved in wheelchair sport. Award categories include Junior of the Year (boy and girl), Outstanding Individual Achievement (male and female), Best Newcomer, Coach of the Year, Team of the Year, Service to Wheelchair Sport, Lifetime Achievement and a Corporate and Individual Media Award.Facilities at Stoke Mandeville
The Foundation provides facilities for events and training of Great Britain representative teams for international competition at home and abroad at its purpose built venue, the Guttmann Sports & Leisure Centre, Stoke Mandeville.
The existing facilities include a multi-purpose sports hall, 400 metre track and field arena, indoor bowls centre, 25 metre swimming pool and fitness centre and dance studio. On-site accommodation in the 'Olympic Village' can accommodate up to 350 visiting athletes and officials. The Centre also has its own catering facilities to support the wide range of programmed events and training weekends at Stoke Mandeville.
Launched in March 1999 by HRH The Prince of Wales to raise funds for redevelopment to the national wheelchair sports centre at Stoke Mandeville, the Sporting Chance Appeal is continually involved in new fundraising initiatives.
If you would like to find out how you can help give wheelchair athletes a sporting chance, please contact the 'Sporting Chance Appeal' on 01296 336696.
An increasingly important role for BWSF is the collation and dissemination of information on wheelchair sport. The Foundation provides information for those wishing to participate in wheelchair sport as well as for coaches, teachers, students and others interested in sport for people with disabilities.
A range of publications and leaflets are produced annually, including a Handbook. The Foundation continues to develop its database of information, available via the Internet.