Ipswich disability sports club volunteer picked as latest Community Hero
- Credit: Archant
An Ipswich disability athletics club is thanking one special volunteer as she is recognised by the East of England Co-Operative for her work.
Ann Brown, from Wickham Market, has been involved with the Orwell Panthers since 2014 when her son Sean first started at the club, aged 11.
Stradbroke High School pupil Sean has Down’s Syndrome and before joining the club was a shy, timid child getting ready to start life as a secondary school student.
However the last five years has seen him transformed into an outgoing young man.
Ms Brown said: “We were both dipping our toes in the club at first, it was something totally different for Sean.
“By 2015 we were totally committed, with Sean training for the 60m sprint, the standing long jump and the soft ball throw.
“There’s about 20 young people and 20 parents at every session to the coaches can really focus on the sports side of things - it’s a real community.”
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Ms Brown is now a trustee of the club and involved in all the social bonding that takes place too.
She added: “We organise bowling nights in the winter and discos in the summer. We will take everyone out for fish and chips and when we compete, we all go along to support.”
The Panthers are supported by another club based at Northgate, the Ipswich Harriers, whose coaches and members often get involved with training sessions.
Their guidance means that two alumni of the Panthers, Hetty Bartlett and Adam Schultz, were selected for the squad that will compete at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
Some disabilities are not currently categorised for competing at the Special Olympics or Paralympics, such as autism, but these athletes are just as welcome to train at with the Panthers too.
Speaking about the change she has seen in her own son, Ms Brown said: “Even the teachers at his school, Stradbroke High, have commented on the change they see in Sean.
“He has completely come out of his shell thanks to the club.”
The East of England Co-Op has already donated £500 to the club, used to purchase soft turbo javelins which lets the team train for a new sport.
The team trains at Northgate Sports Centre every Wednesday from 6.15pm.