2018 ... over & out!
Another year has gone … how has that happened?! Like every year, I am wondering how it’s got to the point where I am writing the last blog post of the year! As ever, I’d like to thank every single person for their continued support for CP Teens UK this year. Whether you’re a ‘CP Teen’ that uses CP Teens UK services, a parent of a ‘CP Teen’, a friend, family, a donator, a Trustee, a partner organisation, a volunteer, a promoter … thank you so much. Sometimes, running a charity that essentially came from a kitchen table and runs through the help of a small, solid group of family & friends, isn’t the easiest of things (especially when you have many crazy ideas & visions!), but your support makes it possible. A special thanks goes to my Mum, Chair of the Board of Trustees, and Jess, my PA.
2018 has been another successful year for CP Teens UK with yet another fantastic Ball, which for me is always the highlight of the CP Teens UK year! However, the year sadly started on a very low point with the unexpected passing of Andrew, the CP Teens UK RaceRunning Coach. I feel it’s so important to include Andrew in this blog post rounding up 2018 - he was a massive part of my life and he was a CP Teens UK hero. His contributions were recognised at this year’s CP Teens UK Ball with the introduction of the ‘Andrew Longden Hero of Disability Sport’ award. This year, there was only one clear winner, and that was Andrew himself. His award was collected on the night by his son, Ross. The award will be presented at the Ball every year and will recognise sports people (athletes, coaches, volunteers etc.) who display the same qualities and attributes as Andrew did - love, passion, outstanding commitment and a true dedication to improving the lives of disabled people in sport. Nominations for the 2019 award will open soon. Andrew’s passion, dedication and wicked sense of humour will live on in CP Teens UK for many years to come.
Every year, CP Teens UK grows and grows, and 2018 was no exception! The fourth annual Ball in October saw a record number of ‘CP Teens’ attend with 23 young people with Cerebral Palsy/a physical disability in the room amongst 120 friends, family and charity supporters. For the fourth year running, a sparkling and celebratory party took place, full of ‘help, hope, inspiration & friendship’ - and what a party it was! Special Guest, Bailey Matthews, went down a storm and had the whole room laughing - and, of course, we are now all going to #BeMoreBailey! Bailey enjoyed himself and the dancing so much that there were even a few tears when the evening had to come to an end! Make sure you’ve got the date for 2019 in your diaries - SATURDAY 2ND NOVEMBER. Tickets now on sale. Visit the Events page for more information, and purchase tickets here.
The annual Sponsored Wobble returned and it’s safe to say that it was hot, hot, hot! This was a welcome relief from the ‘Fish & Fizz’ event which was held a few weeks before in snow and ice. The Wobble is a fully accessible 5k walk through Chatsworth Park. Every year we have wheelchairs, RaceRunners, specialised trikes … you name it, it comes on the Wobble! Once again, the Wobble will return in 2019. All information can be found on the Events page. Please register/get sponsorship forms by emailing email@example.com.
(All the photos from the 2018 Sponsored Wobble can be found here)
As well as to connect young people with Cerebral Palsy/similar physical disabilities, I also setup CP Teens UK to provide a voice to young people with Cerebral Palsy/similar physical disabilities. 2018 saw CP Teens UK launch its first ever campaign - ‘Not So Disabled Now’. When Hope, who has Cerebral Palsy, got in touch to suggest a campaign, it was put into action. Hope wanted a campaign that showcased the talents and hobbies of young people with physical disabilities after feeling as if people often see her disability before they see her. As part of the campaign, many different talents and hobbies of young people with Cerebral Palsy/physical disability were showcased, including SCUBA Diving, writing, cycling, modelling and Boccia! Read more about the campaign here. If you’ve got a suggestion for the 2019 campaign, please get in touch!
It is always very rewarding and touching when families/friends choose to raise money for CP Teens UK as a thank you for helping them/their child/their friend. So, when a caravan park chose CP Teens UK as their charity of the year when one of their returning holiday makers told them about how CP Teens UK had helped them, I was really touched! A big thank you to Upper Hurst Farm Caravans & Camping in Derbyshire who presented CP Teens UK with a cheque a couple of weeks ago for £830.00! A big thank you also goes to Yvonne & Paul who have put events on to raise money throughout this year.
This year, CP Teens UK turned 5-years-old … I just do not know where that time has gone?! On CP Teens UK’s 5th birthday, I found myself on a rooftop in central London alongside 99 other people with various disabilities. I somehow found my way onto the power list of ‘Britain’s Most Influential 100 Disabled People’! I still don’t know how I made the list (they were obviously scraping those barrels this year, haha!) but what an honour, and on CP Teens UK’s 5th birthday too!
I already have a lot planned for CP Teens UK in 2019! Admittedly, 2018 has been quiet - with the loss of Andy and it being such a big year for RaceRunning with both the World Games and the European Championships, all of my time and energy has been put into trying to get things straight on the RaceRunning side of things for the charity, as well as for my own RaceRunning and personally dealing with the loss of Andrew myself. But, things are now beginning to look a little straighter and we’re back on it for 2019! Check out the Events page for everything upcoming in 2019 - there’s also more to be added in the new year. Please remember, all of CP Teens UK’s events either have to be registered for by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or tickets have to be purchased prior to the event (depending on the event type), i.e. please don’t just turn up as we won’t be able to accommodate you!
Stepping aside from CP Teens UK, I have also had some achievements this year that I am proud of. Those of you who have followed CP Teens UK/this blog from the beginning will know that when I founded CP Teens, my confidence was at rock bottom. Slowly, through taking up Athletics, getting to know and surrounding myself with others who have CP both through sport and CP Teens, and then going to University, my confidence levels gradually grew and eventually soared. I think it’s fair to say that this year, my confidence has took a bit of a knocking but in September, I did something I was very proud of. And, with the passing of Andy, it took on an extra meaning as I know he’d be so proud and it is thanks to him that I felt inspired to do it. I did my Level 1 Athletics Coach course. It was 2 full on days and at the end of day 2, to pass you had to successfully plan and deliver a session. 6 years ago, this would have sent me into absolute meltdown - no over exaggeration, I would have been paralysed with fear. Even starting a Sport Development with Coaching course 4 years ago I would have refused to do anything like this. In fact, during my first year at University I did a coaching qualification as part of my course and the coaching assessment had to be adapted because I just couldn't get the confidence together to do it! When it was mentioned on day 1 of the Athletics Coaching course that the following day we'd be finishing off by coaching a session, my stomach had a few butterflies but absolutely nothing compared to what it would have been a couple of years ago.
The following day, I just went for it and coached my session. An hour later, I passed my Level 1. I was so proud! In a year where I felt like everything was just crumbling beneath me, I had officially become a Level 1 Athletics Coach! Andy had nagged me for ages to give it a go and I had kept putting it off because I felt a bit silly as a person with a disability signing up for a coaching course, but I knew he believed I could do it, and I am so glad I did just that!
Away from the charity’s RaceRunning programmes, although there has been some really hard times as explained above in my own RaceRunning this year, there has also been some highs. It has been an absolute rollercoaster from start to finish, but it ended with reasons to celebrate and achievements to be proud of. A massive thank you goes to Jess who pushed me back onto the track at the beginning of February (hated it at the time haha, but looking back it was the only way forward) and when it became apparent that no one was going to take on my coaching after Andy’s passing, she had a ‘strong independent women’ moment and ‘Team Jellie’ (Jess & Ellie, haha!) was formed! Team Jellie had many strops, tantrums and tears, but we got there! Missing out on GB selection by literally points of a second after working so hard for it and for so long was soul destroying, but there was no time to loose focus with the then upcoming World Games. In Barcelona, I won 2 World Gold medals and a Silver! The sheer relief when I crossed that finish line, haha! Andy had told me back in January that I’d get Gold and I didn’t want to let him down, so when that gun went I went out like a bullet! I felt bizarrely calm on the 100m start line, which is really not like me at all. In the 100m, I was in the lane next to Orla (also coached with me by Andy) and I said “in the words of Andy, relax and fast feet, good luck!” I was really glad that I had Orla at my side - Andy’s RaceRunning Queens were side-by-side on the start line at the World Games, he would have loved that and he would have been waving the flag loud and proud.
During the 2018 season, I managed to go sub 21 seconds in the 100m and I managed a massive 200m PB which absolutely came out of nowhere in London - I wiped a massive 4.3 seconds off! I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do in 2019. I used to do circuits/strength & conditioning with Andy and although Team Jellie has mastered a lot this year, we recognised during the summer that I wasn’t really mastering my circuits through a lack of motivation - I used to moan like a little piggy doing them with Andy, so I wasn’t going to get them done solo was I?! Haha! So, in came Richard at S40 Personal Training. I started in September and I’ve already seen the benefits on the track! Some things never change though and I still moan … I even won S40 ‘Biggest Moaner’ 2018, hahaha! Andy always used to say ‘oh … can you hear something?!’, or ‘ELEANOR SIMPSON, your whining is in my nightmares!’ haha! I always used to lie on the high jump bed procrastinating asking him stupid questions like ‘do you know the muffin man?!!!’ so why change, consistency is good haha! But, on a serious note, I am so much stronger. Even if you’re not doing it for sporting reasons, I highly recommend you getting down to your local gym and getting a Personal Trainer. I am essentially doing quite intense physiotherapy 5 days a week between my actual RaceRunning and going to the gym. One of my close friends, who also has CP, recently went to her GP for a physio referral and was referred to a PT instead for a full muscle workout … it’s the future, haha! My physio has commented on how strong I have become recently and has encouraged me to keep it up for as long as possible (i.e. even past my competition ‘shelf life’!).
Away from sport and being active, I am actually really girly and I love makeup, which can be a tad inconvenient when you have Cerebral Palsy that greatly effects hand function ... it is genuinely a miracle how I haven't seriously blinded myself with a mascara brush, and the looks I get off people when I declare that I do in fact do my own makeup are hilarious - you can see the sheer terror in their eyes, haha! So, this year I feel as if I've really mastered my makeup application, which I know is probably hard to believe, haha! Did you know that you can use a mascara brush to achieve a very similar look to eyeliner?! As I do draw the health & safety line at using an eyeliner pencil, haha. I still haven't mastered doing my own hair and with my sister having moved away to University in September, this has been a bit of a learning curve as she was literally my live-in hairdresser. But, with thanks to Jess, I haven't yet had to face the world au natural - image a lion's mane and you've got my hair prior to straightening!
So, even though 2018 has been long and trying, it’s important to remember the good and the achievements. It sounds incredibly cheesy but as a result of everything that has happened this year, I am coming out stronger and better. Things can’t go right all of the time otherwise you’d never develop skills and tools to help you in the harder situations. I am really looking forward to 2019 and seeing what is in the next chapter for both CP Teens UK and for myself!
Thank you once again to everyone! See you for more fun, laughter and friendships in 2019. But, until then, Happy New Year!
Over and out!