Inspired by her visits to Panathlon competitions, one of our volunteer Young Leaders, Alexandra Richards, has written an amazing story about overcoming adversity and conquering fears. It’s so good, we got our patron, Channel 4’s Alex Brooker, to read it to you!

Alexandra’s story is about Pippa the Penguin who has a missing wing. Due to her disability, she lacks the confidence to join in the ‘Big Swim Race’ with the other Antarctic creatures.

However, she finally summons up the strength and courage to overcome her fears and join in with the others. You can listen to ‘The Last Leg’ presenter Alex read Pippa the Penguin below.

Your donation, no matter how small, will go towards helping more young people like Lenny & Honey (seen below) take to the water.

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Learning to swim in the open water and overcome his fears is something Alex can relate to. In 2019, he took part in ‘Sink or Swim‘ with other celebrities to learn to swim in open water with the view of swimming the English Channel in a relay. Despite setting off, the attempt had to be abandoned due to bad weather. Alex spoke about the difficulty swimming and even just treading water “when you have only one foot.”

Alexandra, author of Pippa the Penguin, said: “Several years ago, I volunteered for Panathlon as a team leader and loved every minute of my interaction with all of the competitors.

“I wanted to put into words how proud I was, and continue to be, of every one of the children. The teamwork and resilience that each child took to every event, despite the hurdles they may have to overcome, was inspirational.

“This story focuses on both inclusivity and determination. I hope it may encourage all children to combat their fears and give things a go, even if they may seem impossible at first and do not succeed on every occasion.

“It is my very small and humble ‘thank you’ to all the children competing in Panathlon events for always being so courageous and motivational!”

The story is beautifully illustrated by Colin Robinson, who has also given his time for free as he is inspired by the children who take part in Panathlon and is a fan of the charity.

One of our previous competitors Lenny Rush from Essex (seen below in the middle with Honey Lock and our Panathlon Ambassador and Paralympic Swim Champion Liz Johnson) said: “To swim in the Panathlon and at the Olympic pool was amazing and something that will stay with me forever.

“I can still remember walking in thinking how lucky I was to be swimming in THAT pool! It’s a memory that will last a lifetime and I will be forever grateful to the Panathlon team for making sport inclusive for EVERYONE.”

Everyone has given their time for free on this project. If you like the story and wish to make a donation to Panathlon, then please go to either our Justgiving or Virginmoneygiving pages. Any amount, no matter how small, will go towards the Panathlon swimming programme, to help more young people with disabilities and special needs take to the water in 2021.

The video story is signed by James Dixon, an England deaf cricket international and one of the Panathlon coaches based at Greenbank Academy in Merseyside.

The film was beautifully put together by Carmel Jane and we also thank Partner Finance for their support.

Pippa the Penguin was launched on World Book Day 2021, which saw Panathlon launch several other initiatives for young people alongside some of our sponsors.

We teamed up with England Cricket Association for the Deaf to provide story books by author Tina Talbot for children on our deaf programme.

Kate Pirie from St John’s Catholic School for Deaf in Boston Spa, Yorkshire, said: “The books look great! I plan to take them home tonight to read with my kids to decide which group should have them first in school as part of lessons. Lovely idea, thanks for thinking about us.”

Also on Work Book Day, DM Thomas Foundation provided ‘Ducks for Change’ books as prizes for a huge inter-school Virtual Ten-Pin Bowling competition in Tees Valley which involved 400 children.

Rydal Academy were crowned champions, with Redhall finishing as runners-up. Kirkleatham Hall were winners of the special schools trophy.

Charlotte King from Rydal Academy said: “We all looked forward to the day, but it’s amazing to have won! Thank you for such a great experience for the children over lockdown.”

Chris Homer from Kirkleatham added: “Thanks for organising this tournament for us and for the trophy. It was important to have large numbers of children involved across the school. We look forward to events planned with you!”

Tracy Raynor of Tees Valley Sport said: “All schools loved having an opportunity to compete in lockdown so I think organising one for the summer term would be good too. The books were a really nice touch!” 

As a result of the day’s great success, DM Thomas pledged a further £6,500 to run similar events in the future.