Written By: Rhys Thomas 24/9/15
A CHARITY that gives disabled people in Bradford the chance to take part in sport and physical activities is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Bradford Disability Sports and Leisure (BDSL) has helped thousands of disabled people since its inception as a small group based at the Richard Dunn Sports Centre in Odsal in 1985.
In the 30 years since then, BDSL’s membership has grown from about 40 up to more than 500.
The charity runs various clubs and activities across the district every day of the week for disabled people.
Its members have taken part in regional, national, European and international competitions, with recent success achieved at the Special Olympics in Los Angeles when three powerlifters – Helen Burton, James Crossley and Chris Woodhead – won 11 medals between them.
The charity will mark its 30th year with a celebratory dinner at the Dubrovnik Hotel inManningham on October 16.
BDSL chairman Hilary White said: “I am delighted that we are celebrating our 30th anniversary. Things have moved on tremendously in the last 30 years, from a small club at the Richard Dunn Sports Centre to multi-sports and hundreds of people taking part.
“Every competition we have been able to enter has been a great success. There have also been several receptions with Lord Mayors over the years to honour the athletes.”
She added: “I would like to thank all our volunteers, past and present. Without them we would not have succeeded.
“I would also like to thank our funders including Bradford Council, which has been very supportive, and Sovereign Health Care.”
Barry Thorne, who is in charge of fundraising for the charity, said the group was founded in 1985 by Myra Humpleby and Pauline Montgomery. They held exercise sessions at the Richard Dunn Sports Centre and started bringing disabled people along.
Their Monday sessions then expanded to include leisure activities on Wednesdays in Keighley, before a Council grant of £29,000 in 1990 allowed BDSL to employ two officers and grow further.
Following the grant, BDSL started entering members into competitions, which Mr Thorne said were competed in with “tremendous success”.
In 2005 a Lottery award of more than £100,000 allowed BDSL to set up academies in Bradford and Keighley and further expand the organisation. The most recent expansion was the setting up of a cycling club in Lister Park, Manningham, that was opened by Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy.
Sports and activities covered by BDSL – of which there are at least 19 – include swimming, powerlifting, basketball and ten-pin bowling.
Mr Thorne, whose autistic son Stephen has used the service provided by BDSL, said: “In 1985 I helped with a grant from the leisure committee in Bradford of £500, and I have been involved since then.
“In 1990, I was chairman of the grants committee and we could see things were happening very fast so they were given core funding to employ staff and to expand the service.
“In 1992 when I was Lord Mayor we raised over £100,000 towards disability sports and leisure. A few years later I came on board to do a job helping with trips and things like that.
“Next year I will have been here 20 years, involved as a supporter and a parent as well as a member of staff.”
Mr Thorne said affiliation to groups like disability football and riding for the disabled clubs meant BDSL had provided sports and leisure opportunities to “thousands” of disabled people over the years.
“We are now hoping to expand further,” said Mr Thorne. “We have just employed a new sports development officer, so we are working on developing things a bit more.”
Sovereign Health Care’s chief executive, Russ Piper, said: “We are proud of our long history of supporting Bradford Disability Sport and Leisure. They do a great job in ensuring that right across Bradford district, people with a disability can take part – and compete if they want to – in a wide range of sport and recreational activities.
“We would like to congratulate them on reaching such a significant milestone and hope they can continue providing a great service for another 30 years.”
Anyone who can provide prizes, auction lots and sponsorship for BDSL’s dinner next month can contact the charity on 01274 437093, or Mr Thorne on 07788 995914.
Source: The Telegraph and Argus