Still time to Make It Count!

Laura Cook

Scope’s Make It Count campaign has helped hundreds of disabled people get active over the past fortnight as the Paralympics has inspired a nation.

More than £27,500 has been raised through the backing of 264 participants, who have combined to put in over 45,000 minutes of activity since August 24 – numbers which are set to rise over the final weekend of action in Tokyo.

Make It Count is a truly inclusive initiative with every participant encouraged to get active in a way that is achievable for them, a mission statement which has the backing of Laura Cook.

Laura, who is 41 and lives in Hertfordshire, has Nail Patella Syndrome, a genetic syndrome which affects her mobility.

She has racked up 180 minutes of activity in the gym over the past fortnight and hopes those who have begun or kickstarted their exercise journey will continue their activity in the coming weeks and months.

“One thing I’ve learned over the past couple of years is that a little bit makes a huge difference,” she said.

“What is achievable for me might be very easy for some people but it’s a big achievement for me to reach a new weight or something like that.

“One of the reasons I want to keep up exercise is to be able to manage my day to day life, being able to go on holiday when we are able to and going out to see friends.

“Just doing little bits every day or going to the gym a couple of times a week means I can do that.

“I wouldn’t get hung up on thinking it’s all about training for marathons or anything like that, it’s about what makes you feel better and what is good for your quality of life. That’s why Make It Count is really important.”

Having had a negative experience on her first attempt at joining a gym, signing up with a welcoming and inclusive personal trainer a couple of years ago has, in Laura’s words, ‘changed my life’.

And she now hopes others use the feelgood factor from the Paralympics to discover the opportunities that are out there.

“During the 2016 Paralympics, I looked up what was on in my local area and found you could hire trikes in my local park,” she said.

“I could never ride a bike – I still can’t – but I got in touch with them, hired a trike and it was amazing.

“That inspired me to try out different things and be a bit braver and more confident. Don’t worry about other people watching – if they are, they are probably admiring you.

“Give anything a try and if you’re not enjoying it, don’t worry and don’t give up – just try something else.”

The Make It Count campaign was launched following Scope research which found nearly half (48 per cent) of disabled people have become less active since the pandemic began.

The same study discovered more than a third (35 per cent) of disabled people feel excluded from sport, citing barriers such as negative attitudes, inaccessible sporting venues and a lack of trained staff to support disabled people.

Richard Luke, Scope’s Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead, regularly encourages those living with cerebral palsy into sport and exercise and thinks the campaign has had the desired effect.

“From what I’ve seen from colleagues and through social media from those taking part in Make It Count, people have surprised themselves at what they are able to physically achieve,” he said.

“A lot of what puts people off is not wanting to look silly but they soon realise they can do more than they thought they could.

“The hardest thing for anybody is taking that first leap but once you’ve done that, the rest follows on.

“Sport is not just good for keeping you physically healthy, it’s good for your mental wellbeing and self-esteem and Make It Count is great for getting those endorphins going.”

Richard has represented his home town of Coventry in wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby, two sports ParalympicsGB have excelled in this summer.

A gold in the wheelchair rugby could be followed by another on the basketball court and the 43-year-old hopes those feats encourage more players into both sports.

“I loved playing them,” he said. “Wheelchair basketball was fast, frenetic and I enjoyed that my non-disabled friends could play as well. It was truly equal and had no barriers at all.

“The wheelchair rugby team have done excellently and hopefully it will increase take up both among younger people and those my age. I was in my late 30s when I took it up and it was brutal – but fun!”

Laura has also been loving the Paralympics action and was delighted to see fellow Make It Count backer Oliver Lam-Watson bring home two wheelchair fencing medals.

“I saw Oliver on The Last Leg and thought ‘I’m on the same campaign as him!’, which was pretty cool,” she said.

“I was loving the boccia as well. I’m not a wheelchair user but I’d love to try that somewhere, the skill involved is brilliant.”

Make It Count runs until Sunday and participants who raise over £100 will receive an exclusive Make It Count medal to mark the achievement.

Click here to find out more about the campaign and donate!