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Awe & Wonder as Young Epilepsy launch their V20 Wheelyboat

THE LAUNCH of Young Epilepsy’s Coulam Wheelyboat V20 named ‘Awe & Wonder’ took place in June at Weir Wood Reservoir in East Sussex where it is used as part of Young Epilepsy’s St Piers School and College’s physical education programme.

The Wheelyboat Trust and Young Epilepsy started work on the project together in July 2015 when seven students from St Piers School and College were able to try out a V20 for the first time. The trial run showed the PE department’s staff how straightforward the purpose-built boat is at accommodating less-independent students.

Young Epilepsy’s water-based activities provide their 180 students with a valuable sensory experience away from the classroom in a unique and stimulating environment. Many students find focussing on a given task, or even just sitting and relaxing, very challenging. As soon as they are in a boat, however, they become calm and instantly relaxed and take a definite interest in their surroundings and outdoor environment. The PE department finds it very difficult to replicate these experiences in any other physical activity.

Until recently the fleet has met the students’ needs but more young people are attending St Piers who are non-ambulant and require specialised wheelchairs for mobility and positioning. Getting on and off boats for these students requires manual handling which is undignified and carries an element of risk. As a consequence wheelchair-using students were missing out. The V20 has overcome this problem enabling even the most severely disabled to take part and benefit alongside everybody else.

Able to reach a top speed of 32mph with its 90hp Suzuki outboard, the V20 provides a new and more exciting sensory experience to all of the students, benefitting their overall health and well-being. The V20 also enables students to learn how to drive a powerboat and it supports the delivery of The Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme as well as benefitting other local special needs groups and schools.

Paul Keenleyside, Director of Education at Young Epilepsy, said: “Young Epilepsy is very pleased to accept the Coulam Wheelyboat V20 donated to us. This boat offers each young person at Young Epilepsy amazing opportunities to embrace the outdoors and take part in adventurous activities on the water. The Wheelyboat will not only broaden our young people’s horizons, but also encourage them to experience new physical activities and enrich their lives through adventure and challenge. We have had the most fantastic support from The Wheelyboat Trust and our charitable donors who have made this possible. I am confident that our young people will be benefitting from their generosity for years to come.”

As part of the extensive fundraising activities, Scott Baptie, Young Epilepsy’s Head of Physical Education, and his predecessor, Marcus Frisby, completed a ‘Three Lakes Challenge’, paddling two open canoes down Loch Awe,

Lake Windemere and Llyn Tegid in 24 hours, raising £3,500 towards the cost of the V20. The Wheelyboat Trust also supported the project by raising 40% of the fully-fitted craft’s cost, which was £41,000. The Trust also provided its V20 demonstrator as a safety boat for the Young Epilepsy Swimathon in October 2015 where the students raised £9,000.

Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust, said: “We are very pleased to see the launch of the first wheelchair accessible boat in Young Epilepsy’s fleet. Our aim is to allow as many people as possible to enjoy taking part in waterborne activities and this project will directly benefit those that have the most complex and limiting mobility needs.”

George Cheeseman, Head of Marine at Suzuki GB, said: “We are proud to partner with The Wheelyboat Trust and provide the outboard power for the V20. The Trust does a fantastic job enabling disabled people to experience the enjoyment of water-based activities.”

Awe & Wonder was generously funded by: events and sponsorship undertaken by staff, students, parents and friends of Young Epilepsy; Chalk Cliff Trust; Nineveh Charitable Trust; Tunbridge Wells Operatic and Dramatic Society; Webb Family Charitable Trust; Raymond & Blanche Lawson Charitable Trust; Borrows Charitable Trust; Alchemy Foundation; Weir Wood Swimmers & Paddlers; Three Lakes Challenge; Loch Awe Boats; Fullers Farm Shop; Samphire Trust; Corker Outdoor Living & Landscape; and, the family and friends of Victoria Nice.

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