'When you have a disability, keeping up with able-bodied children is not always easy.'
Preston Panthers is a multi-sports group which gives young people with disabilities the chance to get involved in activities they might otherwise be excluded from.AASMA DAY talks to Christina Stringfellow, who tells how the group has had amazing benefits for her two sons who both have Down's Syndrome
“When you have a disability, keeping up with able-bodied children is not always easy.”
Christina Stringfellow is fiercely proud of her two sons Luke and Jacob, who both have Down’s Syndrome but live as full and independent lives as possible.
Christina, who is married to John and also has a daughter Louise and two grandchildren, is full of gratitude to Preston Panthers, a disability multi-sports club for children, young people and their siblings, for giving her sons confidence and allowing them to take part in a variety of sporting activities.
Christina, who lives in Lostock Hall, near Preston, says both Luke, 28 and Jacob, 20, are still actively involved with Preston Panthers and being involved with the group has worked wonders and given them so many extra skills.
Christina, a retired social worker, explains: “Luke and Jacob both have Down’s Syndrome and this means they need extra help with learning and their day-to-day lives.
“However, despite this, they are both very independent and live life as well and as fully as they can.
“They both went to mainstream school and Luke went on to Cardinal Newman College and Jacob has been at Runshaw College for the last three years.”
Christina says that Luke started going to Preston Panthers when he was in his early teens and Jacob followed suit.
As well as giving children with disabilities and other issues the chance to participate in many different sports, Christina says Preston Panthers helps build their confidence and give them social skills.
She says: “Preston Panthers is so inclusive regardless of your disability.
“The main thing for us was to enable our sons to make friends and feel comfortable in the right environment.
“When you have a disability, keeping up with able-bodied children is not always easy.
“With Preston Panthers, they get the right support in the right environment and seeing the enthusiasm of the children in the group is awe inspiring.
“Preston Panthers has given our boys a lot of confidence and the ability to mix with everybody.
“They are just a bunch of kids having a great time and you would not notice the disability.”
Jacob lives at home with his parents and Luke lives independently in Lostock Hall.
Luke is now an assistant coach at Preston Panthers and Jacob is a volunteer coach.
Christina says: “Preston Panthers provides great health benefits to the children and young people regardless of their abilities.
“They have the chance to build up their stamina, agility, team building, hand-eye co-ordination – all the things that come easily to more able-bodied people. Another great thing that Preston Panthers does is organise a trip to the Calvert Trust in Keswick every year. This gives the children and young people the chance to participate in lots of outdoors challenges such as canoeing, rock climbing, cycling, abseiling and obstacle courses.
“It gives the children the chance to experience outdoor activities they would not normally get.
“I have seen so many children who are nervous about trying the activities but the staff are so wonderful with them. As a parent, I want to applaud chairman Marilyn Gregson for the endeavour, enthusiasm and passion she puts into making Preston Panthers a success.
“I would encourage other parents of children who need extra support to give the group a try. It is such a wonderful group and is so beneficial to children, young people and their families.”