Over 300 children with disabilities try out more than 15 accessible sports.

A busy and exciting day was to be seen at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre as the first ever Rivertime Accessible Regatta welcomed over 300 young people with a wide range of disabilities and special needs to try out sports many of which they could never access before. In the presence of HRH The Princess Royal, who launched the bell boating competition, and a number of Paralympians and Olympians the event brought smiles to everyone’s faces.

Children take part in various activities at the first ever Thames Valley Accessible Regatta. Photos: Lucy Ray/Firebird

Pupils from over 20 Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire schools were cheered on by Paralympic medallists Anne Dickins MBE, Jeannette Chippington MBE and Naomi Riches MBE and Olympic medallists Dame Katherine Grainger DBE and Steve Williams OBE. Aspiring champions Rob Sargent and Georgia Carmichael also came to show their support and help motivate the young people to develop a long-term involvement with accessible sports.

The Rivertime Accessible Regatta was organised by two charities, Rivertime Boat Trust together with Give Them a Sporting Chance with the aim to give children and young people the same sporting opportunities other young people freely enjoy. The river was brought to life with bell boating, accessible sailing and powerboating, kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding. On the land, participants could try a whole host of indoor and outdoor activities ranging from boccia and wheelchair basketball to cycling, football, rugby and air weapons.

Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre, run by Serco and owned by The Sports Council Trust, which is managed by Sport England, proved to be the prefect site for the Regatta which stretched across the sports hall, tennis courts, football pitches, many of the lawn areas, riverbank and a stretch of the River Thames. Laughter, cheers and shouts of joy were heard at every corner. For over five hours, Rivertime Accessible Regatta took over the National Sports Centre and proved to many that disabilities and special needs are not a barrier to being physically active.

Children take part in various activities at the first ever Thames Valley Accessible Regatta. Photos: Lucy Ray/Firebird

Simon Davis, Rivertime Boat Trust Co-founder and Chairman says: “We are overjoyed by the feedback we have received from the participants of the first Accessible Regatta. We have been planning the event for over a year and seeing all the children having such a fantastic time was a crowning achievement for everyone involved, from our kind volunteers to all the partners who helped run the activities. Having so many young people in one place at one time trying out something new filled us with such energy and determination to make next year’s Regatta even bigger and better.”

Dame Katherine Grainger, Olympic Gold medallist and the new Chair of UK Sport says: “It is vital set up initiatives like this where suddenly young people get the chance to try out various sports they might have got otherwise and sports should be available to as many people as possible. Visiting the Rivertime Accessible Regatta, I have realised just how many children an event like this can reach and I hope it will continue to grow and go on because I believe that we should do our best to make sports accessible to all.”

The first ever Thames Valley Accessible Regatta.
Photos: Lucy Ray/Firebird

Anne Wadsworth, Give Them a Sporting Chance Trustee says: “We are delighted that so many young people took part in this wonderful event. Seeing them having what some described as the best day of their life is exactly what we hoped for. The participants today realised that they are capable of doing anything and that is exactly what we strive for at Give Them a Sporting Chance.”

Teachers from Endeavour Academy in Oxfordshire echoed the sentiment: “Seeing our students enjoy themselves at the Rivertime Accessible Regatta made us feel deeply grateful for everyone who organised this wonderful event! Our pupils had an opportunity to just have fun and be kids without thinking about their disabilities; seeing their beaming faces leaves us speechless and filled with joy.”