October Club of the Month!
For 34 years, the simple aim of North Tyneside Disability Forum has been to help as many people as it can.
The charity works with people with mental health issues and learning impairments, helping them gain new skills, qualifications and grow in confidence through classes and physical activity.
Support is there for people of all ages and backgrounds with walking, dancing, racket sports and chair-based fitness among the activities on offer.
Having remained accessible for all who needed it throughout the past 18 months, in-person sessions resumed after lockdown lifted to encourage physical activity and socialisation.
Development Officer Susan Proctor was among those celebrating the Forum’s success and the return to in-person sessions.
She said: “Being the Club of the Month is absolutely fantastic! I just think it’s fantastic to highlight sport for people who may think that they can’t achieve.
“Before I came here I didn’t have a lot of awareness of disability. Being here running a session, if you help even one person, you just give that person so much. It helps them so much and that’s really important. To be recognised by Parasport is fantastic for us.
“The people are my favourite aspect because it’s great to see their progress. Across the whole forum it’s great to see the progress of everybody who’s here and having fun, enjoying themselves.
“After covid as well, obviously it’s been very difficult. We have still been in touch because we have been doing zoom sessions on a regular basis.
“I wasn’t in the centre but we did have people who were doing other roles in the centre because they were giving out food, parcels and contact to people who were shielding at home.
“I was at home and could contact my young people via zoom and it’s great to see how well they’ve coped in this period, and also how they’re now coming into the centre and they’re getting used to coming back in.”
Chief Officer Sue Adams, who has worked at the Disability Forum for 32 years, said the Club of the Month accolade was the perfect celebration of the young people who use the service.
She said: “It’s a fabulous showcase opportunity. The young people who make our services work are the unsung heroes.
“We can’t afford to bring lots of sports professionals to do the things we do. Training the people who are a part of our groups, they get their qualifications, they get a chance to lead, to share their skills with other people. This is a fabulous opportunity to have what they’ve achieved shared.
“This is a great opportunity. For us disability doesn’t mean inability. It’s about opportunity and chance, and about being the best you can possibly be.
“I like the range at the forum. It’s the people, the sheer diversity of opinion and range of activity. We work with babies right through to nonagenarians. We can sing, we can dance, we can act, we can learn. We can share, have fun. It’s the participants who lead the organisation.”
Among those who come to the Disability Forum is Kimberley Leadbitter, who first attended back in 2019.
Leadbitter, 24, takes part in several activities and is enjoying attending sessions in person once again after covid lockdowns.
She said: “I’ve been coming along for two years. I do basketball, ukuleles, cooking, maths and english, clog dancing, drama and performance. I like clog dancing the most. It’s hard but it’s fun!
“Coming here means I mix with others better and it helps me get outside my comfort zone. I feel a lot happier because with covid it felt like I was in prison. It definitely feels a lot better coming out and seeing people, different people happier in themselves.”