Over the 10 days of the London 2012 Paralympic Games national charity, The Muscle Help Foundation plans to give up to 200 young people suffering from Muscular Dystrophy an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
The Muscle Help Foundation (MHF), co-founded by inspirational 'DreamMaker' Michael McGrath, exists to deliver amazing and unforgettable experiences in the UK (known as Muscle Dreams) for children and young people afflicted by the muscle wasting disease, enabling them to live a dream or fulfil a cherished ambition.
Awarded the Inspire Mark by the London 2012 Inspire Programme that recognises innovative and exceptional projects inspired by the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Games Inspired Muscle Dreams aims to encourage young people to “Reach Beyond”, empowering them to set big life goals and to challenge themselves as individuals.
A Day to Remember
The unique Games Inspired Muscle Dreams programme will include a day at the Olympic Park, where the youngsters will be given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch Paralympic Athletics at the Olympic Stadium and spectate at either: Wheelchair Rugby, 7-a-side football or Swimming. The day will culminate in a special Celebration Party where they will meet past, present and future Olympic and Paralympic athletes, share memories of the day and be inspired.
Those taking part in a Muscle Dream will be supported by volunteer hosts who will be part of the charities core delivery team for the day. Volunteers will gain experience of using their skills in a completely different and unique environment and increase their understanding of the impact of such a key event on the aspirations, insights and creation of legacy champions that will exist for this group of Muscle Dream beneficiaries.
Michael McGrath, the charity’s CEO and the only disabled person in the world to have successfully led expeditions to both the North and South Poles, said: ‘‘I want our charity’s engagement with the 2012 Games to be utterly inspirational and truly enriching for our Muscle Dream beneficiaries but also to act as a platform to raise further awareness about Muscular Dystrophy, an unforgiving muscle wasting disease that relentlessly continues to destroy lives and families.’’
Muscular Dystrophy is the single largest genetic killer of children in our world today. In the UK, more than 70,000 babies, children and adults are affected – individuals lose their mobility, independence and sometimes even their lives. There is currently no known treatment to delay or reverse the progression of the disease.
Mr McGrath explained: ‘‘I’m especially keen to focus on making sure that with 100 days to go to the start of the Paralympics, each one of our recipients from across the UK gets the opportunity to witness the power of disability sport, so much so that they themselves become ‘champions of inspiration’ in sharing what they’ve seen with their families, their schools and their local communities.’’
The charity is also supported by Standard Life, the long-term savings and investment company.
Graeme McEwan, Group Director of Communications at Standard Life, called the project an ‘‘inspiring initiative [which] will enable these young people to share their stories and aspirations with Paralympians of the past, present and future.’’
He added: ‘‘As sponsors of GB Wheelchair Basketball, Standard Life understands the power of developing and supporting people through sport."
Figureheads Pledge Support
Seb Coe, Chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), believes that Games Inspired Muscle Dreams will encourage young people affected by Muscular Dystrophy to ‘‘fulfil their potential’’.
Mr Coe said: ‘‘I am proud that with the help of partners such as The Muscle Help Foundation, we are delivering our vision to use the power of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games to make positive life changes for young people in the UK.”
Jonathan Edwards, Deputy Chair of the London 2012 Nations and Regions group called the project ‘‘an Olympic and Paralympic first’’ and claimed it ‘‘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.’’
The project is also backed by TV presenter Lorraine Kelly OBE, a Patron of The Muscle Help Foundation, who has hailed the programme for enabling children and young people to ‘‘be enriched and undoubtedly inspired by the tremendous power of sport.’’
She explained, ‘‘Beneficiaries will see athletes from around the world compete, they will visit the Olympic Park and it's hoped they'll meet some athletes as well as stars of the future, plus the charity’s co-founder and figurehead Michael McGrath.
‘‘I wholly endorse this incredibly exciting once-in-a-lifetime project and urge you to show your support in any way you can for this small family charity with a very big heart.’’
A Taste of What to Expect
A group of three young people with Muscular Dystrophy and their parents were given a taste of Muscle Dream when they were taken to visit the Lee Valley Athletic Centre and Olympic Park, as part of a pilot project in April 2011.
The lucky visitors were shown round the facilities for Britain’s elite athletes at the Lee Valley Athletic Centre then met seated thrower Shaun Sewell, who hopes to qualify for the 2012 Paralympics, and his coach Olympic Gold medallist Tessa Sanderson. The group heard about what inspires them in their sporting achievements and how they keep themselves motivated.
The day ended with a tour of the Olympic Park during which the group learnt about the venues and the range of sports on offer for spectators in 2011, followed by an opportunity to share their personal highlights of the visit over a group meal.
One parent said: ‘‘We all found it very inspirational meeting Shaun Sewell and seeing that someone who has had a serious motorbike accident can still achieve great things.”
Another parent commented: ‘‘Racing in powerchairs on the tracks was one of the best bits of the day for my son.’’
If these reactions are anything to go by, the full-scale project promises to be a hugely inspirational success.
Written by Catherine Ridge