Paralmpian Gold Medalist Firth Backs Toyota Parasport Fund

Bethany Firth, a Paralympic swimming gold medallist from County Down, is supporting the launch of the Toyota Parasport Fund in Northern Ireland.

Toyota are working with ParalympicsGB, Sport NI and Mencap NI to improve the quality and quantity of sports and activities available to people with a disability in Northern Ireland through the Toyota Parasport Fund.

The Toyota Parasport Fund will support Mencap NI to deliver learning disability awareness training across multiple sports and leisure facilities in Northern Ireland.  The new fund will be delivered in partnership with the British Paralympic Association, Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland, Disability Sport Wales and Scottish Disability Sport. 

At the launch at the Mencap Centre in Belfast is (left to right) Angharad Bunt, Acting Participation Manager Sport NI, Bethany Firth, Paralympic swimming gold medallist, Margaret Kelly, Director Mencap NI, (back row, left to right), Ross Graham, Franchise Sales Manager, Charles Hurst Belfast and Paul McGowan, Mencap Disability Equality Officer. (Photo by Aaron McCracken ).

The £250,000 UK-wide funding programme has the support of ParalympicsGB athletes including multiple Paralympic swimming gold medallist Bethany Firth.  Prior to starting swimming lessons as a pupil at Longstone Special School in Dundonald, Bethany had a fear of water, having fallen into a pool as a four-year-old on holiday in Australia.

Bethany said: “The new Toyota Parasport Fund will help more people run inclusive activities so more disabled people can benefit from getting active in the way I have.

“Learning to swim and trying something new really gave me confidence and it helped me make new friends. Swimming has broadened my horizons, allowing me to travel and it has basically changed who I am.

“You don’t have to want to be a Paralympian there are huge benefits to becoming more active whether it’s physical and mental wellbeing, building confidence or making new friends.”

Swimmer Bethany Firth, 200m Freestyle S14 – Women, from Seaforde, County Down, wins a gold medal for ParalympicsGB at the Rio Paralympic Games 2016. (Photo by onEdition.)

Toyota Parasport will support training delivered in Northern Ireland by Mencap’s Disability Equality Officers who have first-hand experience of living with a learning disability. The training will improve accessibility in sports and leisure facilities by providing staff with a greater understanding and awareness of learning disability.

Margaret Kelly, Mencap NI Director, said: “The Toyota Parasport Fund will help us to deliver training to make sports and leisure facilities across Northern Ireland, more accessible for people with a learning disability.  People with a learning disability need to be included more in their communities, physical activity and sport is a great way for people to get involved.” 

The Parasport Fund allows activity providers, who are registered on the Parasport website to apply for grants to improve the quality and quantity of activities available for people with a disability in Northern Ireland.

Andrew Cullis, Marketing Director, Toyota GB said: “We are extremely proud to launch the Toyota Parasport Fund as the next step in our support of inclusive sport and activity in Northern Ireland.  Alongside our partners from Mencap NI and Sport Northern Ireland, we have a fantastic opportunity to improve the options available to disabled people to get active and make a lasting impact on the grassroots landscape.”

John News, Acting Director Participation and Facilities, Sport NI said: “Thanks to the launch of the Toyota Parasport Fund we are delighted to support sports clubs and leisure facilities to access training to enable further improvement of the opportunities they offer to disabled people.”