Rebel Wheelers basks in success of its heroes

Meet the next generation of Irish paralympians.

The founders of the Rebel Wheelers Club in Cork hope the success of the Irish Paralympics team will inspire its young sports stars to greatness in the years ahead.

“We are always looking for new members,” said committee member Jerry O’Regan as the club resumed its activities over the weekend.

“And with the success of our Paralympians in London 2012, we are expecting a surge of new members. Come once and stay forever.”

He said several committee members and their children will be in Dublin today to welcome home Ireland’s heroes.

He encouraged the parents of young children with a physical disability to take inspiration from Team Ireland and to visit the club’s base.

The Rebel Wheelers club — which counts bronze medal-winning discus thrower Orla Barry, double gold medallist distance runner Michael McKillop, and gold medal-winning cyclist Mark Rohan among its supporters — was set up in 2008 by Karen Coleman with a number of other parents of children with disabilities.

The club caters for people from five years of age to 18 who have a physical disability such as an amputation, cerebral palsy, or spina bifida, or a visual impairment.

Members are coached in a range of sports including hurling, football, athletics, wheelchair basketball, pitch and putt, hand cycling, floor volleyball, table tennis, and swimming.

From its humble origins, the club has gone from strength to strength. It was named the 2010 local sports club of the year, and last year it took part in Cork’s St Patrick’s Day parade for the first time.

One of its older members, Alan Dineen, who represented Ireland as a part of the team which competed in the wheelchair rugby European championship last October, was named young sportsperson of the year by the Irish Wheelchair Association.

Then the club was featured in RTÉ’s Secret Millionaire programme, and was visited by members of the Ireland Funds philanthropic group earlier this year.

Mr O’Regan said club membership and participation in sport has transformational benefits for children, but also provides an invaluable support network and social outlet for parents and family members.

His son, Darragh, 8, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, has benefited hugely from involvement in sport.

“He is a different child today — a lot more confident and much more outgoing,” he said.

“We try to help, develop, and grow the confidence and self-belief of our young people who have a physical disability either through the playing of sports, or simply by socialising with children who have a similar disability.

“We are here to help these young enthusiastic people reach their potential and maybe strive to be the next paralympian or world champion.

The club is preparing to host the Cork Regional Athletic Games 2012 at the Cork Institute of Technology on Sept 22.

The Rebel Wheelers Club meets every Saturday from 11am to 1pm at the Cope Centre in Montenotte, on the northside of Cork.


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