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Friday, 31 August 2012

Academy Receives Boost as Paralympics Begin

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Cheshire East Council has pledged huge support to special needs and disabled athletes right across the Borough, by finding them a brand new home.

The nationally-recognised Cheshire Academy of Integrated Sport and Arts was told it would be handed improved facilities and a brighter future, following a key decision during the Council’s recent Cabinet meeting.

The charitable academy, which has built up a centre of excellence for athletes over the last 20 years, will now move from Crewe’s Macon Way to the former Broad Street School premises within the next six months.

Council Leader, Councillor Michael Jones told the organisation: “You have been waiting far too long for a new home and this is unacceptable and I’m only too glad that we have been able to help.

“I intend to bring more facilities to Crewe for these athletes so that they can go on to reach their potential and make us proud here in Cheshire East.”

Councillor Janet Clowes, Cabinet member in charge of health and adult social care, added: “This is a truly inspiring academy and one which deserves so much recognition and support for all the hard work they have achieved in bringing so much joy to special needs and disabled athletes.

“We are delighted to hand over the former school building so that even more young people with setbacks in life can take up sports and go on to represent Cheshire East in prestigious competitions all over the world.”

Co-founders Iain Chalmers, 52, and partner Jane Whetnall, 56, from Wistaston, run the charity.

“This is fantastic news - we are truly grateful to Cheshire East Council for their help and support throughout,” said Iain.

“These improved facilities will mean that we can now raise our game even more and put Cheshire East firmly on the map for sports.”

Iain and Jane’s daughter, Vicky, 33, is currently the country’s top wheelchair sports acrobatics gymnast and is also a former Special Olympic world gymnastics champion, earning a host of national and international Special Olympics titles during her sporting career.

Her achievements, honed by weekly training sessions at the Academy, earned her an invitation to carry the symbolic Paralympic torch in Ellesmere Port last Saturday (Aug 25).

At just six-years-old, Vicky was involved in a tragic road accident in Crewe and the subsequent on-set of reflexive sympathetic dystrophy, a condition that leaves the victim in constant pain, left her wheelchair bound.

Like other talented athletes at the academy, Vicky benefits from a sense of personal achievement in overcoming her physical obstacles to compete at national and international level.

She said: “It’s just so amazing. We are so happy that the future of the centre is now secure and that many more youngsters can be inspired to live their dreams and reach their sporting potential.”

The academy has operated at the Council-owned premises on Macon Way in Crewe since 1993, but now it is estimated that around £300,000 worth of investment would be needed to bring the building up to standard.

It is hoped that their new home at the former Broad Street School, in the West Coppenhall and Grosvenor areas of Crewe, will be ready within the next six months, once the venue is adapted to become a community hub involving five proposed zones.

These would include:

Zone 1: Learning Expectations Achievement and Potential (LEAP) - this is the child development department of the academy that will specialise in supporting very young children with disabilities such as autism that effect their behaviour.

Zone 2: This will be a special zone for young people and young adults with special needs who would benefit from support with social life skills. It will also be used by the wider community for activities ranging from dance, youth clubs, reading groups and choir practice.

Zone 3: This will be a health and fitness wellbeing area where many different sports for children and young adults with and without disabilities can be developed. Sports include rhythmic and artistic gymnastics, sports acrobatics, team gym and even cheerleading. This will be fully wheelchair accessible. It will allow local schools to participate in fully integrated class activities. Special activity classes are to be run for young children with disabilities aged 18 months and over to help with their development, balance and coordination.

Zone 4: A community cafe will not only cater for academy users but will also be a meeting place for people in the wider community to come together.

Zone 5: There will be a community garden outside where adults with special needs will be taught basic gardening skills.

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