In 1998 Preston City Council’s Sports Development Department started
sporting sessions at the
special schools in Preston. These were on sites on Moor Park and helped children and young
adults with physical, moderate and severe learning disabilities.
By 2000 two people who were wheelchair users John Coxhead and Joan Cummings joined with the council to formalise a club designated to sport with disability. This group operated from a council leisure facility with council paid coaches Heather Collins and Matt Devers.
The leisure facilities at West View were being upgraded and the sessions were due to close. The council, coaches and parents all wanted the club to continue so a new time was agreed of Saturday evening of 5pm – 6.30pm with the added advantage of a dedicated disability swimming session for 6.30pm – 7.30pm.
A new club was formed by the parents and coaches with the sport department in an advisory position. Marilyn Gregson was appointed the first chairperson, John and Christina Stringfellow, Secretary and Treasurer. The club went from strength to strength with numbers expanding as more parents were made aware of the potential for their children.
A committee was formulated and all parents have voting rights. We have regular parent meeting updates approximately every six weeks and encourage the parents to make new friends and network. We offer multi sports activities with qualified coaches and volunteers helping out. Some of our volunteers are from within the club and others from schools and colleges outside.
We also try each year to raise money to fund our weekly sessions and also to make an annual trip to the Lake District Calvert Trust, which is an outward bound residential centre.
We do not currently have a National Governing Body so all our funding has to be applied for externally. This costs over £10,000 per year and we have managed to fund the residential every year since 2003. A magnificent achievement!
During the years we have been honoured with many awards, not only for the club but all of the individuals that volunteer their time to help Preston Panthers become the club it is today.. This shows the high regard that our club has achieved not only in Preston but Lancashire.
In July 2018 (at the age of 70) Marilyn Gregson our chairperson decided to retire and Ruth Wilkie offered her services although she had not been long with the group. The membership is still increasing and Ruth is finding her way through the tasks needed to run and organise a club.
We have also helped two Olympian’s on their journey. One member Isaac Towes and one volunteer Stephanie Slater.
In December 2018 we celebrated 20 years of participating in disability sports groups.