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People with Disabilities Now Enjoy Beach Thanks to Charity’s Sport NI Campaign
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It was a special moment for many of the families gathered at the beautiful Portstewart Strand yesterday[May 26] as they enjoyed the sandy beach and sea for the first time together, thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Mae Murray Foundation.

The charity, that helps people of all ages and abilities enjoy a more inclusive environment, raised nearly £24,000 by taking part in Sport NI’s Project Reboot: Activate program. The scheme helps sporting clubs and organisations engage and re-engage people in sport and physical activity after the devastating impact of COVID-19. As part of the scheme the organisations set-up a Crowdfunder fundraising campaign that Sport NI then match fund 50% of their campaign total up to a maximum of £5,000. 

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The Mae Murray Foundation successfully rallied their supporters online to raise much-needed funds to buy vital equipment that allow people with physical, learning, sensory and undiagnosed need, the opportunity to enjoy the beach. Thanks to the charity’s Sport NI Crowdfunder campaign and their partnership with The National Trust,Portstewart Strand is now Northern Ireland’s latest Inclusive Beach that can be enjoyed by all.

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For schoolboy Saul Wilton, from Portrush, who was at the charity’s Inclusive Beach Launch yesterday [May 26] he is now able to enjoy his local beach with his family. 

He said: “It’s great that Portstewart Strand is now an Inclusive Beach, using this equipment, disabled families and tourists that come to this area can enjoy the beach like everyone else.”

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Saul, 12, who has Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, a rare form of dwarfism, and uses a wheelchair, added: “I’ll be able to use the Hippocampe Beach Chair which is made to go on the beach. I love visiting the caves on the east Strand with my dad and I’ll be able to do this now.

“It also gives hope to those other families who have never enjoyed a day at the beach that now they can.

“It’s great that disabled people can take a stroll up the beach, this is especially important for my brother too, who has autism and loves the beach and getting in for a swim.”

Thanks to the funds raised through their Project Reboot:Activate campaign the charity is now able to offer a beach equipment loan scheme that includes beach wheelchairs and beach walking frames that is operational every day until the end of the summer.

Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown congratulated the charity on making Portstewart Strand an Inclusive Beach for people of all ages to participate in sport and physical activity.

She said: “Everyone deserves the opportunity to walk, run or wheel along a beach and enjoy the sea. By taking part in Sport NI’s Project Reboot: Activate the Mae Murray Foundation has made this a reality for many people living with disabilities so they too can be enriched by experiencing the outdoors and being active.

“Ensuring sport and physical activity are accessible to all is at the heart of Sport NI’s Power of Sport five-year plan, so we were delighted to be able to match fund £5,000 in support of Mae Murray’s fantastic campaign.”

She added: “Sport NI has pledged £226,500 to Project Reboot: Activate to date and that has helped 53 sporting clubs and organisations. This has all been made possible thanks to National Lottery players who funded this project and many others like it that enhance people’s lives.”

Alix Crawford, Founder of the Mae Murray Foundation, whose daughter Talia has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, said: “No matter your age or perceived ability, you should be able to enjoy the thrill and beauty of our beaches and we are working hard to make that a reality.”

She added: “Until now Portstewart Strand has been off limits for many with mobility, sensory and other needs, as sand and lack of appropriate toileting facilities can create barriers to participation.

“We are absolutely delighted to partner with the National Trust to enable the whole community to enjoy the beautiful beach at Portstewart Strand. This progress has been made possible following an amazing Crowdfunder campaign through Sport NI’s Project Reboot: Activate program – supported by influencer Blossomingbirds. The funds raised were then generously matched by Sport NI and the National Emergency Trust. The Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership (CYPSP) also kindly contributed, while the National Trust received key funding from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to create an essential Changing Places toilet which offers hoisting and adult changing bench facilities ensuring dignified toileting for all.”

To apply to Project Re-Boot: Activate click here or email projectreboot@sportni.net

To enquire about the Beach Loan Scheme, go to www.maemurrayfoundation.org/projects/inclusive-beaches/ or email comdev@maemurrayfoundation.org

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