Val French, Panathlon’s hugely popular event leader in North Yorkshire, is retiring from her role after 10 years of diligent and often pioneering work.

Val was local School Sports Coordinator for 36 years before running Panathlon’s programmes in North Yorkshire, latterly alongside Fran Nichol at the North Yorkshire Inclusive School Sports Partnership.

In the last few years, Val was central to starting Panathlon’s tennis programme and she also launched Panathlon’s first ever sporting programme for adults with disabilities and special needs, which she will continue to run once a week during her retirement in her hometown of Pocklington.

Unfortunately, Val snapped her Achilles in May and says: “I’m 67 now and I need a rest!”

She revealed: “It was a big decision – and I cried when I sent the email! Working for Panathlon has been utterly fabulous and I’ve loved every minute.

“Seeing these young people with special needs being able to take part in an appropriate competition has been so rewarding.

“Before Panathlon came along, as a School Sports Coordinator we dabbled in inclusive provision but I didn’t ever think we were doing the children justice. It was about having proper competitions and giving children the opportunity to compete at a level to suit their ability.

“When children tell you it has been the best day of their life, it is so wonderful. It has been so rewarding. They don’t get out of school as much as mainstream children, so to go to an external event is incredibly beneficial for them.”

Panathlon’s Chief Operating Officer, Tony Waymouth, said: “We owe Val so much for the incredible work she has done growing Panathlon in North Yorkshire and beyond. She had a huge influence in establishing our very strong presence in the White Rose county.

“Panathlon is now established in many Yorkshire schools as a trusted and high-quality brand. Val’s work embedding Panathlon as a vital part of PE and sport for so many schools has been vital. Val has never regarded Panathlon as merely a job, but a mission: to provide opportunities for children who are so often overlooked. She has enriched many young lives.

“I thank Val for her support and friendship. I am so glad she has been part of Panathlon’s journey.”