Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning paid a visit to the Snow Centre to promote the work of a snowsport scheme which has been helping to transform the lives of disabled people.
Snowbility is the brainchild of ski development coach Richard Fetherston and was established with the aim of using snow sports coaching to help people with additional needs such as autism, deafness, dyspraxia and visual impairment, as well as all forms of rehabilitation challenges.
Mr Penning said: “The Snow Centre is one of Hemel’s greatest success stories and if we can make good use of it in this way, I am all in favour.
“I have been totally impressed by the success of Richard and his team of coaches and I am delighted that local business people came along to learn more about this programme.”
Those who attended the event were taken on a tour of the Snow Centre and learned first-hand from carers how the Snowbility programme has benefitted students, by not only developing their ability on the slopes, but also helping them with their self-esteem, social interaction, balance and confidence.
Mr Fetherston added: “It was brilliant to have the opportunity of showing everyone the skiing ability of two of our students, James and Sonny -one of whom has severe autism and learning difficulties, whilst the other has a rare genetic visual impairment.
“The local support shown to our programme has been fantastic and we would like to thank everyone who has contributed towards helping us continue to make a difference to our students.”
Helen Mackay, mum and carer to 28-year-old James said: “Working with Richard and Snowbility has not only enabled James to learn a new skill but has also had a direct impact on his physical and emotional well-being.
“Hopefully this opportunity will be offered to more young people with autism and other conditions who battle against problems with social isolation.”
Lesa McAnulty, mum and carer to 10-year-old Sonny added: “Sonny is visually impaired and I am absolutely amazed how he has taken to skiing with Richard and the team.
“The first few lessons prepared him for his school skiing holiday where on arrival he was put into the advanced group.
“ Since then he has skied with Snowbility regularly. Snowbility provides access to a sport where his vision is no great barrier.
“He can’t catch a ball, he can’t make the footie, rugby or cricket teams, he can’t ride a bike but wow, can he ski!
“Sonny is a lucky child to have found a sport that puts him on an even playing field with fully sighted people. For his self-esteem this is fantastic.
However, there are many children with additional needs for whom snow sport opportunities would not even be a consideration, whether this be due to affordability, or lack of knowledge about what is possible.”
Snowbility needs funding and support to be able to continue its valuable work. If you would like to find out more, contact Richard on 07713 888 199 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.snowbility.co.uk