Colin Crowther will pass on a strong legacy of opportunities for children with disabilities and special needs this week when he ends his 13-and-a-half-year tenure as Calderdale School Games Organiser. 

Panathlon has worked with Colin for over a decade to provide SEND sports competitions in Calderdale. Pupils from the area have benefited immensely and enjoyed huge success. 

“I’ve no doubt that the commitment to Panathlon from primary, secondary and special schools in this area will go from strength to strength,” said Colin, who is leaving his role to head up sports academies at Calderdale College. 

Colin (right) with Brian Burgin and a member of the winning Calderdale team at the 2017 Panthlon West Yorkshire multisport final

“I know Panathlon will always be a priority for our SGOs and schools,” he added. “Panathlon is the first thing on the calendar every year. In my 13 and a half years as SGO, I haven’t come across another organisation that offers opportunities like Panathlon does.” 

Panathlon’s impact across the region has been immense. At Parkinson Lane Primary in Halifax the ripple effect has permeated across the school. Inspired by Panathlon competition, 60 pupils in Year 6 have been leading adapted sport sessions for younger peers with special needs. 

“We came to quite a few Panathlon competitions and were inspired,” said Parkinson Lane Primary’s PE specialist, Nikki Goldthorpe. “We got so much out of them, so we thought why not take it on board back at school? So we invested in the equipment and resources to enable our sports clubs to be fully inclusive.” 

Colin says this ripple effect is replicated at other schools across the region: “Parkinson Lane and many others have seen Panathlon’s framework and ethos first-hand at competitions, and have run with it, utilising their new-found skills and understanding back in the school environment. It’s wonderful when you see that kind of impact.” 

Pre-pandemic, Calderdale won our Yorkshire multisport final five years in a row and were crowned northern champions in 2016, 2017 and 2018. But it’s the stories of individual impact which really highlights its benefits. 

Thomas Green (bottom right) with the 2017 Yorkshire multisport title-winning Calderdale team.

Back in 2017, Thomas Green from Brooksbank School in Elland had to have his left leg amputated due to an intensely painful venous malformation behind his knee which caused severe arthritis. He enviously watched his two sport-mad brothers play rugby, but in Panathlon, Thomas found his own platform to excel in sport despite his disability. 

Panathlon proved to be a launchpad for him to gain confidence and complete numerous self-set physical challenges. He went on to compete in wheelchair racing and played wheelchair rugby for Leeds Rhinos and for Halifax in the Wheelchair Rugby Grand Final. 

Charlotte Hirst and Billie Lambert, both from Brighouse School, received Panathlon Outstanding Achievement awards back in 2017. Charlotte has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She discovered a love of polybat, boccia and new-age kurling through Panathlon and soon started attending extra-curricular sports clubs, represented Calderdale at the West Yorkshire School Games and led sports activities for younger students. 

Team Calderdale compete Panathlon’s Yorkshire Regional Finals at Fulford School in York in 2018.

Through Panathlon, Billie, who is visually impaired, discovered a love of – and talent for – running, which she developed with local coach Brian Burgin to an elite standard. She also became 2019 national dance champion. 

Colin concluded: “As School Games Organisers, we have always offered good strong competitive opportunities through national governing bodies such as football, cricket, table tennis and badminton, but the most joy I’ve had in the job is working with Panathlon. 

“It’s so inclusive, so much fun and they always strive to give children with disabilities and special needs as many opportunities as possible.” 

Tony Waymouth, Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We offer Colin huge gratitude for the support he has given us over many years in embedding Panathlon in Calderdale and across Yorkshire. We also wish him all the very best in his new role.”