Employees from the Leeds office of the St. James’s Place Foundation today had their first taste of volunteering as officials during a Panathlon competition.
The team of eight pioneers from the foundation, which is one of Panathlon’s main sponsors, said they were wowed, amazed and humbled by the experience of helping disabled children compete in the games.
St. James’s Place Foundation is the grant-making charitable arm of the St. James’s Place Wealth Management Group and the eight staff from Leeds acted as officials at the South Yorkshire Primary Panathlon at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) in Sheffield.
“Seeing these children so happy and achieving so much today is amazing and I can’t stop saying ‘wow’,” said Rachel Mendelsohn, the secretary of the foundation’s Leeds committee.
She said 86 per cent of St James’s Place employees in Leeds donate a proportion of their salary to the foundation. “Every penny we contribute is doubled again by the foundation this year, as it is celebrating 25 years. Now I can see how very worthwhile this is. I don’t usually spend time with children but I have been getting stuck in today and got so much out of it too, just seeing the patience, the care and the love of the teachers and Panathlon staff.”
Rachel also organises events to raise funds for the foundation and is running the Great North Run half marathon, undertaking the Big Walk in Wales and climbing two mountains in Slovenia this year to raise more.
St. James’s Place staff from company headquarters in Gloucestershire have volunteered to officiate at Panathlon, but this is the first time for Leeds office staff, who had a training session in boccia, table cricket, parachute, polybat and athletics before the games began.
Scott Campbell said: “It is important for staff to see their donations to the foundation are appreciated. We also sponsor the Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards and we are looking forward to Panathlon’s nominations.”
Sue Smith, a partnership development manager, agreed. “I didn’t know what to expect but this is better than I could have imagined on so many levels. Seeing how the children compete and support one another is fantastic.
“I think I am having more fun than the children! And I shall be going home two pounds lighter in weight but knowing that every penny I donate is worthwhile.”
Students from New College in Pontefract buddied up as young leaders with the St. James’s Place volunteers. Working alongside them student Rachel Corbett, 16, who is on a sport leader course. She said: “It has been such an amazing experience helping disabled children and seeing what they can achieve. Seeing how games have been adapted by Panathlon has really open my eyes. I can’t fault it.”
A full gallery of images can be seen here.
Panathlon’s chief operating officer, Tony Waymouth, said: “This is an important part of our work with our sponsor St. James’s Place, helping them understand more about our work with schools and them being able to interact by providing staff.
“I hope that the Leeds office has gained an insight today into the lives and abilities of young people that are involved with us. We hope we can expand the opportunities for the Leeds office for corporate volunteering and embed Panathlon within their community activity.”
St. James’s Place Foundation has supported Panathlon since 2011 to provide sporting opportunities to disabled young people.
The winners of the South Yorkshire Primary Panathlon were Doncaster School for the Deaf, who took home gold medals after grabbing an amazing 50 points. Primary PE teacher Rebecah Taylor said: “This Panathlon offers equal opportunities to all our children and an opportunity to compete against other schools.
“Every child has achieved something and it has been valuable for them to experience the fast pace of the hearing world, but also learn to follow guidelines, have patience and work as part of a team. Panathlon has given them time to learn.”
Celebrating silver success was Abbey Special School in Rotherham, which followed their participation in the secondary-age Panathlon last month. Teacher Jayne Leversidge said: “Panathlon is ideal for the school, which has an immersive ethos. We take the children out as much as possible. Today has contributed to their emotional wellbeing and will be a memorable experience.”
Full results for the South Yorkshire Panathlon at the English Institute of Sport:
1. Doncaster School for the Deaf (orange) 50
2. Abbey Special School, Rotherham (pink) 45
3. Mossbrook, Sheffield (purple) 37
4. Hilltop, Rotherham (yellow) 33
5. Norfolk Park, Sheffield (green) 33
6.Greenacre, Barnsley (red) 22
7. Kelford Park, Rotherham (pale grey), 18