'Invaluable' SEND activity programme in Northumberland appeals for new participants and volunteers

An inclusive leisure programme in Northumberland is looking for new volunteers and ambassadors, and is encouraging people who want to take part to get in touch.
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Ability2Play, run by Northumberland County Council’s sports development team, organises weekly activity sessions and holiday camps for children and young adults with special educational needs and disabilities.

Anyone considering joining the programme is being encouraged to come along and get involved in the activities, which include archery, bowling, cricket, clip ‘n climb, outdoor adventure camps and more.

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Chris Maddox from Blyth, who has autism, ADHD, dyspraxia and lower body orthopaedic problems, has been helping to run Ability2Play sessions for 15 years.

Chris Maddox from Blyth has been supporting the Ability2Play sessions for 15 years. (Photo by NCC)Chris Maddox from Blyth has been supporting the Ability2Play sessions for 15 years. (Photo by NCC)
Chris Maddox from Blyth has been supporting the Ability2Play sessions for 15 years. (Photo by NCC)

He said: “I want to put something back. The highlight of my involvement is seeing the kids happy and noticing the difference that joining our sessions makes to them.”

Chris started attending sessions aged eight, but his lack of confidence and shyness meant he was initially more comfortable sitting in the corner and watching rather than taking part, but with support from session staff he eventually began to actively participate.

He has gone on to assist in delivering activities and has completed an apprenticeship with the council team. He also holds several activity qualifications, including archery instruction, and his commitment was recognised with a Pride of Northumberland Award.

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Appealing to anyone unsure about joining the sessions, Chris said: “Come and give it a go. There are people there to help you and no one will push you to do an activity.

“Helpers and staff will focus on making you feel comfortable and helping you to join in. It is a really friendly environment.”

County councillor Jeff Watson, cabinet member for health, said: “A special thank you must go to Chris for his significant contribution to the team over so many years.

“His commitment and enthusiasm are always guaranteed and the reassurance and support he provides participants is exceptional.”

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Blyth Town Council recently donated £5,000 to the programme to further enhance the activities on offer.

Mayor Warren Taylor said: “We know the invaluable role the Ability2Play programme plays and how important it is for children and young adults with disability needs in the town, and we wanted to pledge a donation to offer our support.”