Panathlon has been “transformational” for pupils with additional needs at primary schools across North Wales since we formed our funding partnership with the Neumark Foundation.

Many of the rural communities across the area suffer with isolation and social deprivation, adding further barriers for children with disabilities and additional needs who already lack opportunities in sport and other extra-curricular activities.

Together, the Neumark Foundation and Panathlon have expanded provision across Wrexham, Flintshire and Gwynedd, as well as holding Panathlon awareness days in the Conwy area and setting a date for a first event in Denbighshire. We have also got a Special Schools programme underway with competitions in 10-pin bowling and multi-skills and planned events including swimming, outdoor multi-skills and specially adapted school sports days.

Two of the schools to benefit from this activity so far are St. Winefride’s Catholic Primary and Ysgol Brynffordd School in Holywell. Both schools have taken part in Panathlon new-age kurling, 10-pin bowling and multi-skills competitions and St. Winifride’s qualified for our recent North West Primary Grand Prix Final in Ellesmere Port.

Karen Wilson, Additional Needs Coordinator for both schools, said: “I move hell and high water to get them to Panathlon’s events. Some of them have never had that sense of being part of a team or enjoyed success before in their lives.

“I can think of one particular little boy whose self-esteem and confidence was on the floor, but he had the medal round his neck and trophy and certificate in his hands. Normally he would not engage or share at all at school, but he stood up in assembly and told everyone what an unbelievable experience he’d had at Panathlon. It was totally transformational.”

One St. Winefrede’s pupil at the 10-pin bowling final at Ellesemere Port was 10-year-old wheelchair user Abigail (pictured above). Karen said: “It’s fabulous for the other children to see how much Abigail can do. The others presume she can’t join in and they’re very quick to offer to help, but she is fiercely independent and wants to do it herself.

“It shows that Panathlon gives everybody an opportunity to be successful and enjoy sport. They get so much out of it.”

This positive impact has been made possible by the support of the Neumark Foundation which supports children and young adults in all walks of life across North Wales. The Foundation’s CEO Rebecca Prytherch has worked closely with us to facilitate links with local educational authorities and schools in order to spread our opportunities to as many children as possible.

Rebecca said: “These are severely isolated and deprived communities where children with additional needs are often excluded for all manner of reasons and through no fault of their own. Many of them do nothing outside of school and rarely go outside of their own communities.

“That’s why it’s so wonderful to see them being included through Panathlon and getting a boost in confidence and wellbeing. It gives them an idea of what’s out there. It goes such a long way.”

Together, the Neumark Foundation and Panathlon have expanded provision across Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire and beyond. We’re also linking up with a deaf charity to organise a deaf-specific competition later in the academic year and get into more schools.

“Panathlon have exceeded everything they said they would deliver,” said Rebecca. “Their passion is unmatched. They’re exceeding all our expectations.”

Tony Waymouth, Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “It has been a delight to work with the Neumark Foundation to bring positive change across North Wales.

“We are repeatedly told that we are the only organisation in the region inviting pupils with additional learning needs to external sporting activity. The feedback we’re receiving shows the change we are making in an area where social deprivation and rural isolation are real issues.”