Scotland’s Wheelchair Rugby League captain has urged people with disabilities to realise the positive impact sport can have on their lives.
Graeme Stewart told a special sporting themed AGM of specialist housing and care provider Blackwood how sport helped him overcome challenges associated with his injury.
Graeme, from Balloch, West Dunbartonshire, was just 16 years of age, and two days away from joining the RAF, when a tragic accident left him paralysed in the legs.
The 50-year-old is now not only the proud captain of his country at rugby league, he has also beencox of a rowing team, regularly plays basketball and has climbed Ben Nevis.
In his inspirational speech, Graeme said: “In 1983, I fell off a rope swing that was over a cliff and I broke my back in three places which led to paralysis. It was a bit of a shock at the time, I had my life planned out and it threw it into disarray.
“I was two days from starting with the RAF and was training at the time of the accident to compete for Scotland at rowing.
“Everything had changed but sport really helped me through and now I’m proud to say I’ve climbed Britain’s highest peak and I’m captain of my country.”
The Blackwood AGM was held at the National Sports Centre in Largs, North Ayrshire, and offered the organisation’s customers the chance to try various sports and activities such as wheelchair basketball, dance and archery.
The Sports Centre – designed to be inclusive for users of all physical and sensory ability - also allowed Blackwood customers to sample various machines in the gym as well as watch and participate in displays.
Graeme added: “It’s great that Blackwood chose to have a sport-themed AGM as it gives everyone a chance to try things they might not have known existed, meet new people and just generally get out and about and have some fun.
“It’s so important what Blackwood are doing because people need to know what their options are as I’ve experienced first-hand the positive impact sport can have.
“Sport has helped me so much and I’m still learning. I just took up basketball three weeks ago. I’m so proud when I go out and represent my country so my message to all the customers is to just go out and enjoy it because you never know where it might take you!”
Blackwood Chief Executive, Fanchea Kelly, said: “It was so inspiring to hear Graeme’s story and brilliant to hear the positive impact sport has had on his life.
“The idea of our AGM was to give everyone a great chance to participate and show that physical capability or age is not a barrier preventing people from doing what they want to do.
“The sports on offer gave people the chance to try something new, practice old skills and make new friends – as well as underlining our philosophy to put people at the heart of Blackwood.”
Since it was founded by Dr Margaret Blackwood in 1972, Blackwood has been a pioneer in both housing and care, constantly innovating in ways large and small that transform the lives of its customers, helping them to live as independently as possible
Blackwood’s aim is to do whatever it takes to help people have control over their lives in accommodation that meets their needs. It has an outstanding record of adapting properties from entire renovations to minor adaptations which are incredibly liberating to those involved.