Wow, so here I am again writing the final blog post of the year. I can remember doing this last year, mid-dissertation too! Every year, I seem to sound like a broken record by saying "I can't believe what CP Teens has achieved this year!" But, I think 2017 has been an especially big one.
Some of you may remember that in the last blog post of 2016, I mentioned that the Cabinet Office had been on the phone. I was led to believe at the time that this phone call was because they wanted to include CP Teens in a booklet about volunteering. Shortly into the New Year, all became clear and CP Teens actually wasn't appearing in a booklet for volunteering at all! Without blowing my own trumpet, the proudest moment to happen to me to date (just slightly above the double Gold medal win at the World Games, but only just!) happened when I was informed that I had been awarded a 'Point Of Light' award by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, for CP Teens UK's "outstanding contribution to the lives of disabled young people". I thought I was dreaming, I think every interview I did as a result of the award consisted of me saying "I don't really understand?!", haha! It was an incredible honour and an amazing start to 2017 for CP Teens to be recognised by the Prime Minister.
I told the rather funny story of how I found out about the award in a blog post at the time. I'll never forget getting the text from my mum at the back of a virtually silent lecture! Basically, the Cabinet Office phoned my house but I was at Uni, so my mum took the call. They told her the wonderful news and said that they were about to send me an email with more information prior to the main release. Obviously at this point, I was blissfully unaware sat in my lecture, so my mum felt she needed to tell me prior to the email popping up on my phone! I received a text from her which said something along the lines of "I know you're in a lecture so I know I can't phone you, but I just wanted you to know that the Cabinet Office have phoned and you've only gone and won an award from the Prime Minister!!!".
As you can imagine, I totally forgot where I was for a split second and the most bizarre excitement noises were coming out of me! The lecturer, who was new to me at the time (as in my first ever lecture with her!), was not at all happy about the "commotion going on at the back"! She probably thought that Lorna (note taker/PA/moaning buddy/fellow lady who lunched!) and I were a silly, immature pair of girls at the back as Lorna immediately flung her arms around me as I showed her my mum's text! The rest of the lecture was totally written off, concentration had totally gone out of the window! I will also never forget the lecturer saying "I don't know what on earth is going on at the back, but I am not amused!", and Lorna whispered to me "She'd be amused if the Prime Minister casually rung up her house!", at which point I was totally losing the plot!
In March, CP Teens achieved something that was 3 years in the making. It sounds cliche, but a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into achieving full charitable status for CP Teens UK. It was by no means a walk in the park with today's strict and heavy rules surrounding charities. But, we did it. A team effort application between myself and my mum. It was an extremely long process, but on Thursday 16th March at 2.30pm, CP Teens UK became registered charity number 1172105! And, the funny thing was, I received the news in the same lecture as the Prime Minister award, just a couple of months later! Lorna looked at me as if to say "Beth (lecturer) is going to absolutely hate us!" as another party commenced at the back of the lecture! Matt and Joe (university friends) were in this lecture and joined in with the party, much to the disgust of people around us. Oops, must stop getting amazing news while in Beth's lectures!
Shortly after, Sophie Christiansen accepted to become CP Teens UK's Patron. Back in 2012, before I got into sport, I was watching the Paralympics just by chance as it was on. It was Sophie. Again, it sounds cliche, but I was captivated and so inspired by what I was seeing. Before that exact moment, I had never seen anyone with the same pattern of Cerebral Palsy to me do any level of sport, let alone at an elite level. I think the likes of Hannah Cockroft and David Weir are amazing and I had caught their races a couple of days before. Although I was inspired by them, I personally couldn't really relate to them as there is no way I'd be able to propel a wheelchair, let alone race them with my lack of hand coordination and control. But, Sophie was virtually a copy of me. I decided at that very moment that I wanted to be a Paralympian. I was crazy about it. I even went to school the next day and told my form teacher in a 'careers meeting' that sport was going to be my thing with my ultimate dream of becoming a Paralympian. No one took me seriously. If I'm being honest, deep down I had no clue of how I was going to do it and I thought that maybe I was 'drunk' on the idea. As you probably all know, I stuck at it and chipped away at the idea. To cut a long story short, I fell into Athletics, found RaceRunning and the rest as they say is history. Following the incredible announcement on 19th October this year that RaceRunning will be a World Para Athletics event from 1st January 2018, I am now closer than ever before to achieving my penultimate dream of becoming a Paralympian. Sophie has played a huge part in this and has been a massive support to me, both with CP Teens and as a person with very similar challenges. She has supported CP Teens from the very beginning and came to the very first Ball back in 2015. She also returned to this year's Ball as Patron. Another cliche thing to say, but I can't thank Sophie enough for inspiring me to enter the world of sport and for continually letting me know that I can achieve anything I want to ... within reason, an ambition to become a waitress might be a difficult one to fulfil, haha! When we were applying for charity status, I knew straight away that I wanted to ask Sophie to be Patron of CP Teens. It just seemed so fitting as she had took a keen interest in CP Teens right from the very beginning and without even knowing, she had changed my life while competing at the London 2012 Paralympics.
Just as I thought that 2017 couldn't get any better for CP Teens, it did. My dad discovered that there was a free office at Chesterfield FC. For those of you who don't know, Chesterfield FC has recently moved into its new home at the brand new Proact Stadium. Chesterfield FC is quite unique in the fact that at the back of the stadium, in one of the stands, we have the 'Community Hub', which is home to all sorts of charities, community organisations and activities. It is also a perfect environment for people with disabilities. It is fully equipped with hoists, a Changing Places toilet, a hydrotherapy pool and most recently, a sensory room. I am also a fan and a season ticket holder at Chesterfield FC ... someone has to be! What a perfect base for CP Teens UK I thought. However, I tried not to get too excited as I knew it'd probably be unlikely that CP Teens would get the space.
I came out of a lecture and had a phone call from my dad saying that he had managed to secure a viewing and could I meet him at Chesterfield FC in 40 minutes? I rushed over and straight away knew that it was the 'right' place for CP Teens, but it just seemed too unreal ... this all existed only within my head a little under 4 years ago, how can I be stood in my football club's brand new stadium looking at a potential office space for 'my' charity?!
But it was indeed real. On July 22nd 2017, after 6 full on weeks of building (and the odd swear word!) flat pack furniture, painting, drilling (obviously not me, that would have been a disaster!) etc., the brand new base for CP Teens was officially opened. I just loved the reaction of everyone who walked in for the first time! I was pretty blaze about it as I had spent the previous 6 weeks doing it up and mainly shouting expletives at my DIY skills - or lack of! So it was pretty cool to actually see people's reactions after 6 weeks of sitting in mess!
Back in 2015, I had a mad idea to hold the inaugural CP Teens UK Ball. This was meant to very much be an one off event, or at the very most a biannual event if it proved to be successful. I think my mum is probably the biggest saint to walk the planet as 2017 saw the CP Teens UK Ball return for the third year running, and what a night it proved to be thanks to another Team Simpson/Lowe production! One thing we were 'sure' of was that we wouldn't raise as much money as the year before, which was around £9,800. But, we weren't really too concerned about this. As long as a small 'profit' was made with it being the main fundraiser of the year, we were just more concerned about people having a good time! Tickets absolutely 'flew off the shelves' and a phenomenal amount of over £10,000 was raised. To put this into perspective, the Ball starts at 7pm and ends at 1am. All fundraising on the night is done from around 7.30pm to around 11.30pm! I was speechless, and that doesn't happen all that often, haha!
But, as ever, it wasn't the amount of money that was the most important thing on the night. Every year it seems to get bigger and better, and even more friendships come together to celebrate the achievements - not only of the charity, but of all of the young people who attend. Make sure you save the date of 20th October 2018 for the 4th CP Teens UK Ball - more information and tickets to be released soon!
Aside from the 'big' things, it was also the smaller things in 2017 that made the year another memorable one. The RaceRunning and Sport Taster Days with both CP Sport and Sheffield Children's Hospital - as ever, the sheer delight on many of the children's faces as they got onto a RaceRunner for the very first time. Two children specifically stick in my head; one was a young boy who was a twin, and for the first time ever he was able to run alongside his able-bodied twin. The other was a young girl, who again was a triplet. One of her triplet sisters actually already attends RaceRunning and has a much less severe form of Cerebral Palsy. Their Mum felt that the triplet who doesn't already do RaceRunning would not be able to do it ... but, she could, and she was off!
March saw a very successful Pie & Pea and Quiz/Social night, with the odd slightly naughty question! And of course, the 2017 'Sponsored Wobble', which once again saw the masses do a 5k accessible walk, 'wobble' or wheel through Chatsworth Park, followed by a pub lunch. The 'Wobble' follows a part of 'Thomas's Golden Miles', which is a totally accessible route put together by co-founder of partner charity, Accessible Derbyshire, Gillian, who does an annual walk through the Peak District in aid of Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice who looked after her son throughout his life. Thomas sadly passed away this year, but he has paved the way for the Sponsored Wobble for years to come and he attended the very first two Wobbles. We thank both Gillian & Thomas for discovering this route during his life, everyone loves the Wobble!
Myself & Chloe had a full day of safeguarding training following becoming a registered charity, which was... erm... fun?! A necessity though, and as a result we like to think that we are making CP Teens UK activities as safe as possible, especially online with the chat facility.
12 new CP Teens UK Ambassadors were also appointed and Gavin Drysdale became the Head Ambassador. Gavin also held a fundraiser for World CP Day in aid of CP Teens UK at his school - he arrived at the Ball with a phenomenal cheque for over £1,000!
2018 is looking even busier for CP Teens ... cue the grey hairs and wrinkles now! Aside from CP Teens UK this year, I finished my degree at Sheffield Hallam University. Part of me was so relieved that I never needed to reference anything again, nothing et al! (See what I did there?!). But, a massive part of me was devastated. I had the best 3 years with the best people, and I got involved in so much. I finished with a 2:1 - only 0.9% off a First, which will haunt me for the rest of my life! My dad said "maybe 0.9% of your brain doesn't work?" ... he was being deadly serious and innocent at the same time, which made me howl with laughter! Maybe he should rethink his comment a tad as last time I checked, a considerable amount more of my brain wasn't working, haha! But, now University is done, I can now spend considerable more time on CP Teens UK and make 2018 even more exciting. Keep watching the events page, as well as the Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.