Ten-year-old Michelle Lofthouse revelled in the “incredibly rare” opportunity to experience an out-of-school activity at her first ever Panathlon event in her hometown of Morecambe.
Michelle joined her team-mates from Morecambe Bay Primary competing against four other schools at the Panathlon 10-pin bowling final on Morecambe’s seafront promenade on Wednesday 20 October.
Michelle is one of 11 children. She has spina bifida and is largely confined to a wheelchair. Her parents, Suzanne and Simon, don’t have the means to take their children on trips out.
“I am so happy to be coming out today,” said a beaming Michelle. “I don’t like missing out on anything!”
Dad Simon said: “If it were up to Michelle she would be on her feet all day. She likes to try everything and won’t be held back. She likes to think she’s no different from any other child at school.
“We didn’t know she would be able to do this [10-pin bowling] because she’s in a wheelchair, but when we got here today we thought, hold on a minute, there are little platforms and ramps that allow her to bowl.
“We’re looking to come back and try this again because we get a carer’s discount. We don’t want her to miss out.”
Michelle was born with her spinal cord protruding from her back. The condition affects her legs, bowels and body. Her parents were told she wouldn’t be able to walk, eat or talk properly. “But she is doing everything they said she wouldn’t be able to!” said her mum Suzanne.
Suzanne added: “With us having other kids, it’s not so easy. We go for a walk but trying to push her over rough terrain with a wheelchair, I often feel like I’ve done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. We struggle to get her around. It’s very tough.”
Paul Marshall, PE Lead at Michelle’s school, Morecambe Bay Primary, said: “I have been working at this school for five years and this is the first time I’ve been on a trip like this.
“I used to teach in London and there was something going on most weeks. We don’t have the luxury of being in a large city, so when we come to events like this it makes a lot of difference to children. We will find out in the next couple of days the effect it has on their personal traits, body language and confidence levels.
“We have been focusing on resilience in school so seeing it in a different context is fascinating. It’s a great opportunity to work as a team and build confidence. They have been talking to children they wouldn’t have spoken to before and you can see the smiles and positivity on all of their faces.
“A lot of children in my group have never been bowling before. They are so excited to have a go. These kinds of opportunities for these children are fantastic. They have been talking about it for weeks. I really want to seize any opportunity to come together and experience something that’s unfamiliar to them.”