• Sat. May 25th, 2024

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Disabled teen completes expedition after off-road wheelchair rebuilt

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 09.14.53A disabled teenager with dreams of a Duke of Edinburgh Award has travelled o’er hill and down dale thanks to youth workers and a County Durham garage owner who rebuilt a special “mountaineering” wheelchair.

Originally created 20 years ago the chair was designed to allow young people from the North East a chance to take part in expeditions and scale one of Britain’s highest peaks – but it fell into disrepair and was put into storage.

Yet when 14-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Kimberley Welsh set her sights on completing her bronze qualification, Durham County Council youth worker Pat Hill turned to one of its original creators to breathe new life into the chair.

Mum Judith praised staff at the Cheesy Waffles youth project for helping her daughter achieve her Duke of Edinburgh dream.

“Kimberley absolutely loves going to Cheesy Waffles,” said Judith, from Stanley. “And I think it is a fantastic organisation, with fantastic people who are great with all the children.

“Going there allows her to be able to mix with other children and to lead as normal a life as possible.

“And when she wanted to do Duke of Edinburgh they were tremendous in having the wheelchair fixed.”

The wheelchair was first created two decades ago, when youth worker Dave Hill had the idea of climbing Ben Nevis and giving young people with a disability the chance to climb it too.

Much time was spent training up young people from Durham Sixth Form Centre, the Youth Army Team and Gilesgate Special Projects Team.

But with one of the teens unable to walk, yet still keen to climb the mountain, Dave designed an off-road wheelchair that could be pushed or lifted up the peak and enlisted Fred Henderson’s Garage in Durham City to build it.

The group went on to climb the mountain in two days and raise thousands of pounds for charity, while the wheelchair spent years helping disabled young people take on their Duke of Edinburgh Award expeditions before falling into disrepair and being stored away.

However, with Kimberley wanting to take on the challenge Pat called garage owner Fred Henderson and asked if he could take a look at the broken wheelchair and, if possible, reconstruct it.

Fred agreed and after three weeks it was ready to collect from his garage at Langley Moor.

Kimberley and her team – who were praised by Judith for the support they provided her daughter – successfully completed a two day, one night expedition using the wheelchair to conquer tracks, overgrown paths, riverside areas and woodland near to Waterhouses, between Lanchester and Crook.

Youth worker Pat Hill, of Cheesy Waffles, a part of the Mid Durham Projects Club run by Durham County Council’s One Point service, which works with disabled young people, said such achievements were a great way of bringing young people together.

And as well as bronze level groups, like Kimberley’s, Pat said 11 disabled children from the Cheesy Waffles project have  also successfully completed their gold Duke of Edinburgh Awards and are set to visit Buckingham Palace in February to receive them.

To find out about completing a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award please contact the One Point service on 03000 261 111.

By admin