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How we’re hoping to help inspire a generation at the Paralympics

124039185 200x300 How were hoping to help inspire a generation at the Paralympics

South African sprint runner Oscar Pistorius with Lord Sebastian Coe and British swimmer Ellie Simmonds (Getty Images)

If the Olympics were designed to inspire a generation of athletic heroes, then the Paralympics could achieve something equally profound.

Lord Coe has spoken about the 2012 Games creating “positive life changes” for young people in the UK with disabilities and the foundations for this vision are being set down not just in London, but in more remote parts of the country.

One such location is Buntingford, a small town in rural Hertfordshire, where the charity I am privileged to support, the Muscle Help Foundation (MHF), is planning its biggest ever project around the Paralympics.

Our organisation works to deliver Muscle Dreams – personalised, once in a lifetime experiences for children and young people with muscle wasting disease, Muscular Dystrophy.

For some children with this unforgiving and, in some cases, life-limiting condition, their dream is to secure front-row seats to Paralympic sport this summer.

This has not been an easy task for many. This year’s Games are set to be the first sell-out Paralympics in history, with demand for tickets outstripping supply across a plethora of events.

However, MHF’s Games Inspired Muscle Dreams project has secured entrance to six days-worth of sport in the Olympic Park.

One such ticket winner is Rebecca Torricelli, who suffers from a strain of Muscular Dystrophy that affects her spine, called Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

The 13 year-old’s mum Nicky says she is naturally enthused by sport and before recent setbacks in her condition, including a major operation to strengthen her spine, she participated in wheelchair events organised by her local football club Brighton & Hove Albion.

After their attempts to get tickets were unsuccessful, they were eventually offered Olympic Stadium seats for this Sunday’s athletics.

“It’s a fabulous opportunity,” Nicky says. “It’s been a difficult period for Rebecca with her spinal fusion surgery and a bad chest infection. She has been cut off from her friends, but this has given her something to get really excited about. She will be able to talk about her day when she returns to school.”

Rebecca already admires Team GB swimmer Ellie Simmonds and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, but Nicky hopes that watching the event live will help her be inspired by other athletes.

Tangible goals have already been set, Nicky explains, including introducing Rebecca to adapted sailing and encouraging her to return to the other sports she was involved with before her setbacks.

Not that the experience will be purely about sport. MHF prides itself on tailoring the experiences we deliver to children and young people, meaning the opportunity for all 75 of the Games Inspired beneficiaries will extend far beyond tickets to the Olympic Park.

They will stay with their families overlooking the River Thames the night before their day at the Games, where they will be treated to dinner, an entertainment zone, a giant chocolate fountain and some power chair racing to the sound of Chariots of Fire.

Importantly, they will be given the space to meet and interact during their time in East London, while their families will also be able to share their experiences – an important part of the support work we do at the charity.

Finally, in true MHF tradition, each child will receive a goodie bag and a specially commissioned Games Inspired Muscle Dreams t-shirt, which Rebecca is already designing her outfit around. “She’s very into her style,” jokes mum, Nicky.

“The charity has been incredible,” adds Rick Dallaston, dad to sport fanatic Nathan. “My son has Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, a strain of Muscular Dystrophy that affects the nerves in his hands and feet, resulting in a loss of mobility. We got tickets after another charity, CMT UK, told us about the MHF project.”

Nine year-old Nathan and Rick will join Rebecca and her dad at the athletics on Sunday morning, while a session at the fast-paced and popular Paralympic sport goalball is planned for the afternoon.

“Nathan’s incredibly excited about it all – he can’t quite believe he’s going the Olympic Stadium,” Rick says. “He’s very active and always likes to compete with his friends, but they’re getting big and strong and he’s going the other way. I hope this will provide him with the motivation to help push him.”

MHF’s 2012 flagship Games Inspired Muscle Dreams programme is guaranteed to deliver once in a lifetime experiences, but it could also be a source of life changing inspiration. Don’t just take my word for it – the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog) has not only granted the charity its Inspire mark but has endorsed our mission for this very reason.

“Games Inspired Muscle Dreams will go down in the history books as one of the fantastic projects that used the power of the 2012 Games to inspire a generation,” says Jonathan Edwardsformer Olympic gold medalist and Locog board member. And we hope it will.

Jake Kanter is a volunteer for the Muscle Help Foundation. To discover more about the charity visit: www.musclehelp.com

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