Speaking at the 2019 Sport Access Foundation grant recipients announcement at BlueScope headquarters in Port Kembla a few weeks ago, I shared the story of Michael.
Having being involved in sport my whole life from playing sport in my younger years, to my professional career and then in recent years of representing Australia at the Paralympics, I have witnessed the power of sport on many levels.
In my view, and in its truest form, at the heart of it Sport is about the human spirit and the capacity of each one of us to Do Good.
I grew up in a country town, and like many of you, my weekends revolved around sport. Friday night swim club, Saturday morning squash, Saturday lunch Netball and the week was full with training.
Through my sporting teams I would become friends with girls from all backgrounds across town. Some of indigenous heritage, some of single family households and some living in challenging circumstances. I, along with my friends, had Access to sport.
One memory that has always stayed with me, was my primary school classmate Michael who was in a wheelchair. I suspect Michael might’ve been the only boy in town that was in a wheelchair.
I don’t recall Michael ever playing sport nor given the lack of accessible facilities or services, I can't imagine he might've had the opportunity to have played team sport.
I can't imagine how challenging and isolating this would have been for Michael not to have had the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits of sport - including the physical and psychological.
Fast forward some 30 years and I would find myself part of the Australian Paralympic Team at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
What I observed and witnessed at the Paralympics were individuals who had made a choice to Do Good with all their gifts and talents. Individuals who would recognise and honour the Paralympic movement and those who had been there before them, the pioneers. Individuals who also challenged themselves, and others to ensure sport was available for all.
These fellow Paralympians might’ve been the Michaels' who I knew in my primary school years. They and their parents have had to overcome significant barriers to access their sport. They had to continually educate and advocate sporting clubs and organisers to challenge their perception of what is the normal way of doing things and to be inclusive.
In 2019, its third year, Sport Access Foundation received 110 applications from young Aussies living with a disability from every state and territory. We were very proud to award over $20,000 in grants to 18 outstanding individuals and sporting clubs.
Sport Access Foundation aims to improve access for all the young Michaels' and ensure none of them have to sit on the sidelines like Michael did.
We exist to Do Good.
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