#SMO Meets – A true Hero – Daryl Jones – Disability Sports Hull

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SMO recently met up with local Disability Sports ambassador/hero Daryl Jones to find out all about the fantastic work he is doing with the organisation Wheelchair Sports Hull (soon to be Disability Sports Humber), what that means for the City of Hull and what the future may bring!

Straight off the back of completing the Hull 10k in his wheelchair, Daryl was excited and full of energy as he shares with us the challenges of not only raising money for and the voice of disability sports in the region, but all while facing his own personal physical challenges. Over to Daryl!

So Daryl, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be so instrumental in raising funds for disability sports in the area.

I was born in Hull, and unfortunately with Marfan syndrome, a rare illness that affects around 1 in 10,000 people. It affects my joints and heart and other areas, and I also suffer from uncontrolled epilepsy. At university I started to play wheelchair basketball and saw a much needed role for raising funds for disability sports in the area. I had a business degree and I am business minded and so I decided to set the organisation up to try and help.

I set-up Wheelchair Sports Hull (WCSH) 3 years ago initially for 3 clubs and established our annual awards to try and raise funds for disabled athletes. In our first year we managed to get 200 people attend, raising over £4000.  Right at the beginning we saw the power and impact the money had and its continued to grow. We support all sports including Powerchair Football, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby league and helping Hull’s Sledge Hockey team Kingston Kestrels particularly around their funding for their Team GB appearance.

WCSH works with businesses to source money, as the area generally suffers with most funding being allocated Amyto the West, not East of Hull – something we are trying to change. A used sports wheelchair can cost £2-3000 and replacement wheels around £4-500. Power chairs come in at £3-5000 – so you can imagine it’s not a cheap sport but the enjoyment and social impact is huge and helps disabled people who feel isolated and worthless to feel that they matter.

WCSH is an umbrella organisation – when someone invests in us, they invest in everyone. Money goes straight back out to the individual clubs that need it at the time.

How do you manage the process of managing the funds? Do the clubs apply to you?

The clubs go through an application process and our board of trustee’s review and make decisions on all applications. Our funding is well oversubscribed, and doesn’t match what is needed. After the recent awards in Hull which is our biggest fundraising activity, we gave out £4000 straight away to get the clubs ready for the next season. For every £1 we raise, £5 is requested. Disability sports still has a lot of work to do.

Does all of your funding come from what you raise yourself?

We have received 2-3 grants since we started the rest has been funding from local businesses. Our awards contribute mostly to this. Businesses invest their time and money in us as they see the impact and what the money has been spent on – this makes them happy to support us.

We set-up the awards, not only to raise the funds but recognise those in disability sports and raise their profile. It’s about recognition for the sports in the area. When we organised our first awards, we thought we’d get 50 people in the room and this year we had 320 people there.

I organise the event completely from scratch, all alone. I want everything to be right, and I enjoy doing that. Darren Lethem makes the night for us, and really supportive of disability sports.

What are your biggest challenges at the minute?

The first one is funding and it’s the biggest issue we have. We also struggle to get away from the Paralympic legacy. If you look at the research, participation in disability sports often reduces around the Paralympic games as disabled people feel that they need to be able to perform to a certain level to play. In 2012 there was an increase in numbers, but in general this reduces. Disability sports really is for everyone and it’s about the enjoyment factor more than the achievement. Electric Eels player Kizzy Blue Wade plays and enjoys the experience and that’s what it’s all about.

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Disability sport is open and available to everyone. With the exception of Powerchair Basketball, for example the Sledge Hockey sport is open to both those disabled and able bodied as is Wheelchair Basketball. The physical exertion for some of the sports on the arms is tough and a challenge for those able bodied also.

People often can’t believe that basketball nets are the same height in the wheelchair game. It’s about adapting the game as best as possible –you just can’t do a slam dunk !

We want to get people at an earlier age inspired to get involved. When I was at school, I was told I couldn’t do things and to go off and do some work and was always the case until I joined the wheelchair basketball team. I wish that this type of support had been available when I was at school.

Do you think the school system is changing positively to encourage participation into disability sports?

Physical education is now changing to a more inclusive format. We are seeing more disabled people going into mainstream schools and so it is having to adapt. Whatever your ability, sports changes people’s lives. In raising funds, you can never relax – the impact of what we do and who we give to is unreal. In 3 years alone, we have impacted on participation rates by 250%. We are passionate and go about raising our profile across shopping centres etc. to let people know we are there. We provide grants for taxis to help people get out and to join in sport. Whilst the funding of equipment and chairs is important, we do a lot of little things such as helping with the transport for someone to go to play every week – this can make a huge difference to their lives.

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A lot of disabled people are in isolation, as are the carers. It gives the carers time off as well, and can bring families together. It’s so far reaching in terms of what we do and who we bring together. Before WCSH was set up, all of the teams worked individually and now they work together to share best practice and help and support each other to grow.

What’s been your most memorable moment in your journey so far?

That’s a hard one as there are so many. I would say, the first donation we ever made. It was after our first awards when we donated to a club. The clubs could finally stop worrying about fund raising and get on with playing and enjoying the sport. There are so many examples. It’s that special feeling that you’re doing something to help and making an impact. With every grant we give, we see the smiles on people’s faces. Look at Kizzy and Amy, Kai and Chris and all the other people who have received grants. The impact on their lives is massive. All the hard work for us does pay off. We see the smiles and we made that happen.

Are you aware of any similar organisations either here or further afield?

There is an organisation called Disability Yorkshire based in Wakefield which are much bigger than we are. They don’t offer grants to clubs and are more of a teaching organisation.

There are national charities that support with bringing over the chairs and sourcing used chairs but we are more focused on benefitting those locally. That’s why businesses want to buy into us as we give directly and act as an umbrella to all sports. We also work with all the clubs to help them organise themselves.

It’s not always about money, it’s about the hours you put in to help and make things matter. We live in a society where people want things now but things can’t happen now. We focus on being inclusive and ensure safety needs are met, disabilities come in all forms and each needs considering on its own merit. That’s really important.

We know you are currently going through a rebrand – what’s the reasoning behind this decision? 

When we first set-up the organisation, we were focused on wheelchair sports but we have now diversified. We Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 17.19.29are also talking to North Lincolnshire who need an organisation that represents their area, and not just those involving wheelchairs. Our new logo is much nicer and more modern, and gives us a professional image as we grow and move forwards.  We are also building a new website which will really help us communicate better and be able to promote our supporters and clubs and their events as well as a weekly newsletter. We have 2-300 people signed up already.

How many trustees or members are there of your organisation?

Everything has recently changed. There are 6 of us as a team who bring different skills. 3 disabled, 3 non-disabled so we keep things representative. This is quite high compared to other sports organisations and important to us. We really benefit from the wide range of skills brought to us from businesses which help us to grow and deal with legal matters etc. We will launch our new brand in August at a launch evening.

If you could appeal to SMO fans to help raise the profile support Disability Sports Humber what would it be?

Please like our Facebook page – Disability Sports Humber and share it as well as follow-us on Twitter. Our page includes a lot of information about clubs and their games so people can support.

We are always looking for volunteers and people to help out with the clubs also. It’s never anything committed or fixed just whenever you can help out. A couple of hours here and there is very valuable to us. We need as much help as possible to get the area up there with the likes of other Northern cities, we are still quite far behind and their network is larger. We also welcome fundraisers for our charity.

Team SMO feel completely inspired by Daryl and all that he does and achieves. At the time of publishing, Daryl was preparing to head to London for an awards ceremony having been shortlisted for a Public Health Excellence Award. Good luck Daryl !

 If you would like to support the new Disability Sports Humber organisation through donations, business sponsorship or simply to raise funds, contact Daryl at [email protected]

Thank you to Kevin Greene Photography for use of his photograph from the recent WCSH Sports Award where Daryl received a special award.

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