'The Blog of the Year' ... 2014!
As you've probably seen from the CP Teens UK Twitter and Facebook feeds, this will be the final blog of 2014 and I promise it'll be a good one! It is going to be a bit longer than the normal blog posts, but 2014 has been absolutely amazing and it'll all be included right here!
I suppose the logical place to start is back in January. I spent New Years Eve with family and friends (after spending the afternoon in hospital in Orthopedics, seriously out of all the days of the year, New Years Eve?! All was good though, so a good 'new year present'!), and without sounding like I had some kind of dramatic moment, it hit me as we entered 2014 how much things were going to change and I literally didn't know which way things were going to go. I can now look back and say it's been a fantastic year!
It has been a great year for CP Teens UK and I can't believe how much it has come on in it's first full year of 'operation'! Firstly, the launch of this brand new website, which caused me so many tears both of laughter and crying when I worked through many nights designing it and mostly failing! I've never done anything on web design before, in fact I dropped GCSE ICT as I was that far behind - I wonder if they'd give me an honoury GCSE for this website?! But, with a little help from all of you, we got there eventually. The new website was launched and incredibly, CP Teens UK grew from an organisation within the UK, to a worldwide organisation ... hello CP Teens in America, Australia, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Denmark, Spain and Germany! - even more countries use CP Teens UK, but without diving through my emails, social media sites and the analytics that Google very kindly produce, I can only remember these countries!
The launch of the new website, prior to the logo
With the new website up and running, it was time for a brand new logo. It was very kindly designed by a graphic design company in Sheffield. I remember seeing the logo for the first time back in April and literally going 'wow'!
The CP Teens UK logo
CP Teens UK was now beginning to have a true identity and was becoming a recognised organisation. It can be found listed on many medical websites, such as Physio websites, leaflets about Cerebral Palsy, and it is linked from websites of other organisations such as Scope. I can honestly not quite believe it - to me, I don't really do anything and I'm honoured that all these other, rather developed, organisations want to be associated with CP Teens UK!
As CP Teens UK grew, I decided that it would be great to have some Ambassadors. I set up CP Teens UK to provide friendship, support and to give a voice to teenagers and young people with Cerebral Palsy, so I felt having a team of Ambassadors would be perfect! I wanted a team of young people who you could all contact and could speak up for everyone - I found that I was making all the decisions for CP Teens UK, when actually, my decisions were maybe not reflecting what you all wanted! As you all know from the Ambassadors page, 2014 brought you 11 Ambassadors:
- Chloe Tear
- Ella Shipley
- Cat Lee
- Cerys Giles
- Melissa Barber
- Chloe Smith
- Hannah Bannister
- Josh Halliday
- Jamie Green
- Nathan Giles
- Ben Rowlings
They're a fantastic team of Ambassadors, and they are all young people with Cerebral Palsy doing fantastic things! Ben represents Team GB for Wheelchair Racing, Nathan has his own campaign called 'Space Invaders' which tackles the incorrect use of Disabled Parking Bays and it has even took it to Westminster, Jamie is currently half way through his second year at University abroad and he blogs about being a disabled student abroad and it has been published in The Guardian newspaper, Melissa is preparing for her second year at University abroad, Ella does some amazing work and fundraising for HemiHelp, Chloe (S) has started her own Twitter campaign called 'It's Personal' which aims to stamp out the use of words such as 'retard' in relation to disability, and Chloe (T) has her own Facebook page with over 1,000 followers called 'Life As A Cerebral Palsy Student' where she shares her experiences of being in mainstream education with a disability!
2014 has been the year where I decided to start on the road to charity status for CP Teens UK and your support has been amazing! I decided I wanted CP Teens UK to help you all in person as well as online - after meeting Laura through CP Teens UK, it made me realise that things need to happen offline as well as online.
Laura and I
So, from this, I organised the first ever fundraising event for CP Teens UK which was 'The Sponsored Wobble'. I won't go on too much about it as I did plenty of blogging about it around the time of the Wobble! The support was absolutely incredible and it was amazing to meet quite a few of you who use CP Teens UK, not to mention the wheelchair race in the final bit of the walk - apologies to the members of the public who virtually got knocked over by incoming teenagers in hurtling wheelchairs!
The local press got wind of 'The Sponsored Wobble', and back in October my landline phoned and it was BBC Radio Sheffield asking me to go and do an interview (still don't know how they got my number!)!. I'll never forget my Mum coming up the stairs going 'Errmmm... Elle ... BBC ... BBC Radio Sheffield are on the phone for you!'. As I said at the time, the thought of speaking on the Radio put the absolute fear of god into me, but I wanted to do it for CP Teens UK and Cerebral Palsy as a whole. I am very lucky to know Francesca Martinez who tours the UK regularly and has had many, many TV appearances including Jonathan Ross, This Morning, Loose Women, BBC Breakfast and Russell Howard's Good News, just to name a few - I thought if fellow wobbly Francesca can do it to the nation, I can do it to Sheffield! I did actually have University on the day they wanted me in the studio, so I had to fight the urge to hide behind my timetable, but I emailed my tutor saying "I know this is a bit of a bizarre request but am I okay to miss next Thursday because..." haha! So, off I went to the studio and I had an incredible afternoon! Unfortunately, the interview didn't focus on CP Teens UK much as I had hoped as that's why I went on, but rather more on me (cringe!) - I thought any minute now they'll present me with a big book like on 'This Is Your Life' as the whole interview was about my life ... I suppose it was still spreading awareness of Cerebral Palsy though and the confidence boost it gave me was invaluable, especially with speaking.
BBC Radio Sheffield - apparently I was Rony's favourite interview?!
CP Teens UK then appeared on BBC Look North (Yorkshire)! I'll try not to go on too much about it as again, I blogged about it at the time! CP Teens UK featured as part of a feature about me (again, cringe, cringe, cringe!) and it was fantastic for CP Teens UK to get coverage on this level - the emails were going crazy for about a week after! I say it all of the time but I don't understand why people think how I set up CP Teens UK is 'amazing' ... we all have things we're passionate about and things we fight for that we're passionate about, I am really not doing anything out of the ordinary.
BBC Look North feature
CP Teens UK started 2014 with approx 400 followers on Twitter, and 100 'likes' on Facebook. It is finishing 2014 with just short of 1,500 followers on Twitter, and just short of 600 'likes' on Facebook - this is well over double of the figures in January on both social media sites and it is purely down to all of you! It's because of all of you that CP Teens UK is what it is and I can't thank you enough!
During 2014, CP Teens UK has gained some partnerships including:
- Accessible Derbyshire
- CP Sport
- British Athletics Parallel Success
- Disability Rocks
Recently, CP Teens UK was invited as a 'key organisation' to launch 'The Big Push' with Accessible Derbyshire, which was a real honour! The Big Push is a campaign that aims to make the Peak District the most accessible national park in the UK, and Derbyshire the most accessible county. On behalf of CP Teens UK and as a person with Cerebral Palsy, I am working alongside them to make this happen ... oh, and it involved another Look North appearance, cringe!
Launching 'The Big Push'
CP Teens UK has also made great connections with CP Sport and British Athletics this year. I will be attending British Athletics Para Days in 2015 with a CP Teens UK 'stall', and CP Sport have kindly agreed to hold sporting events with CP Teens UK in 2015! CP Teens UK will also have a pitch at Disability Rocks 2015 - a disability festival.
I would also like to welcome Carly Tait to my CP Teens UK team ... my 'team' of 1, aka me, has now become my team of 2! Carly is a new and upcoming Wheelchair Racer for Great Britain and when I eventually have time to meet up with her (I am on it Carly, I promise!) she is going to help plan what should be an another amazing year for CP Teens UK!
So, through the CP Teens UK Facebook and Twitter pages, I asked you what all of your highlights and achievements from 2014 were as I wanted to fill this blog with them! They didn't have to be Cerebral Palsy related, but equally they could have been. Lots of you shared all of your highlights and achievements, and here they are!...
Josh Halliday - CP Teens UK Ambassador - "My personal highlight in 2014 has to be moving down to England to go to University and learning to live independently. Also doing interviews with some massive bands is another achivement."
Lewis Clow - CP Athlete - "I represented Team Scotland at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. I won a Bronze and a Gold at my first 2 international competitions in Dubai in the 100m and 200m. I then won Gold at the Bedford International Games, and a Bronze at the UK School Games!"
Kelly Demery - "I finally passed my driving test!"
Kayleigh Haggo - CP Athlete (Swimming & Athletics) - "This year I achieved the title of 13x World Record holder for 100-1,500m RaceRunning, I am ranked 1st and 2nd in Britain for swimming, I hold the record for 50m and 100m breaststroke and for the 4x50m relay, and I am ranked 17th in the world for the Club Throw, and 6th for the Discus!"
Chloe Plummer - "This year I completed my first year at University!"
Heather Lacy - "This year I have clocked up loads of hours of volunteering, whilst studying for my degree and working part-time. It's a weird highlight, but one that I am proud of! I am also looking at postgraduate study and I am not letting my CP hold me back - something I am also proud of!"
Tiger Feet - Dance Classes for people with Physical Disabilities - "Our biggest highlight is performing to HRH Prince Edward this year! Our biggest achievement from 2014 is creating more classes and producing more shows ... ability, not disability!"
Carly Tait - CP Wheelchair Racer - "This year, I represented Team GB at the Glasgow Grand Prix and the Birmingham Grand Prix!"
Natalie Murdock - runs the 'WhippingCP' Twitter - "This year the 'Whipping CP Pie Challenge' was recognised worldwide and people from across the globe took part!
Dan West - "This year I got selected by the CP Centre of Excellence for CP England Football and I start after Christmas!"
There have been lots of fantastic sporting achievements this year! When I posted on the CP Teens UK Facebook page asking for all of your highlights and achievements, my own coach, Adam, shared his ... I am in some serious debt recently with all of the nice things he has said and done for me! I can't remember exactly what was asked but at University a couple of weeks ago, another student asked something like "what do you do at training?", to which my tutor swiftly answered for me "she winds Adam up!" ... haha! Basically, some of my University sessions are at the same place as where we train, and when Adam appears 'being sensible' goes out of the window!
"I have the pleasure of being one of Ellie's coaches and every session is an eye opener (in a good way). I'm able bodied myself and I have learned so much from Ellie (and Laura Webb as well). Even though I've been coaching for over 10 years, and even though I've coached a whole host of people, both Ellie and Laura have taught me so much about CP, along with the pitfalls and the possibilities. They have taught me that we are all differently able! Thanks for letting me help in your life development!" - Coach Adam
Lots of my own personal highlights and achievements overlap with CP Teens UK. Of course, being on BBC Radio Sheffield and BBC Look North most definitely have to be up there! Along with:
- Winning Silver at the National Disability Championships
- Winning Gold at the National CP Championships
- Completing my first season in Athletics
- Going to (and surviving!) my first festival
- Starting University ... and completing my first semester yesterday!
- Organising the 'Sponsored Wobble' for CP Teens UK
I asked the CP Teens UK Ambassadors if they would like to submit a final post this year for 'The Blog of the Year', and Chloe (T) has written the following peice for you!...
Can I just start off by saying, what a year!!! Firstly, I have had the pleasure of being CP Teens UK's first Ambassador! I can't wait to see what next year brings with that, hoping to make a difference in the UK. Also, I've made some pretty big achievements academically with achieving good grades at GCSE and starting this whole other world they like to call 'Sixth Form'. It's been a hard journey, but a good one. As always, I know it wouldn't have been possible without the help of my amazing friends. This year I have also made my own blog successful, if I do say so myself! Which includes a Facebook page. I'd like to thank everyone who has read/ commented/ liked/ shared my blog as it means a great deal to me and feel that it allows me to express myself and get my ideas across. No, I am not the best writer, but it's something I enjoy, which is all that matters. On a lighter note, I got to see Ed Sheeran in concert! As little as this may sound I would class it as a highlight! I've wanted to see him for so long and it finally happened! Finally, this year I have also been in contact with an American author- Anne Eliot. She contacted me (via my blog) as she has written a remarkable book called 'How I Fall'. This book is about a girl who has mild cerebral palsy. Yes, I know it sounds cliche, but believe me when I say that it's different, it's so true. Anne is also in the process of writing the sequel - 'How I Fly' - and I have had the privilege to assists her with this. 2014 has been a great year, can't wait to see what 2015 brings!!! ~Chloe xx"
This year, CP Teen Nikki Charlesworth, designed and created some 'CP puppets' as part of her Art & Design course at college! One of the puppets was actually based on Laura (who I met through CP Teens UK)! They were put on display where people went to view the work. What a great, and different, way of spreading awareness!
This blog post is now becoming extremely, extremely long! So I suppose all that's left to say is, thank you so, so much for all your continued support for CP Teens UK and for helping it grow so much in 2014!
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
PS. I hope Santa doesn't put too much sellotape on your presents (reoccuring problem for me every Christmas!) and, remember, if you get drunk, don't worry, just blame the falling over on the CP!