Preston Panthers are a multi-sports club for children and young adults with varied disabilities and special needs. We are based in Preston, but we welcome members from all over Lancashire and the North West. We provide a safe and inclusive environment for our members, who often cannot take part in sports clubs and teams because of their disabilities and special needs - sometimes because of physical problems holding them back, but more often than not because they are bullied or rejected because of their differences. This is painful and upsetting for both the child, and their families. Therefore Panthers provides a space for our members to take part in sport, to be involved in a team, and to never be judged, criticised, or made to feel unwelcome. They are in a safe environment with people just like them. Here, they can learn new skills (including teamwork, coaching, and sports skills), take part in team sporting activities and exercise in a fun and exciting way.
This also affords parents and full-time carers the opportunity to relax, as they know their children are enjoying themselves and are safe, and to socialise with people who understand their life. They can discuss issues at home without fear of judgement from parents who don't understand what it is like to live with a disabled child, or a child that has special needs. They can create a supportive network, to provide them with emotional support, as well as support with the more practical side of things.
Each year, we aim to take a group of Panthers and a carer to the Calvert Trust in the Lake District. This is an outdoor activity retreat, designed for children with special needs and disabilities. It is a place where our members can get away, have a 'holiday', try out new and exciting activities, and make happy memories. We try to gather funding every year to pay for a group of Panthers to make the trip to Calvert (with carers paying for themselves), but this is very expensive, and each year it becomes more and more difficult to raise the funds. This money would guarantee next year's trip - which is much needed, much loved, and much longed for my our club's members. It is not often that they are able to go away, or to have the kind of experiences on offer at Calvert. Therefore, it is so important to the children, and to their parents, and is a highlight of their year.
'I really like going to Panthers because I get to chat to people – and they’re people like you. It’s the thing for me, I like all of the different sports we do. I love going to Calvert [Calvert Trust Lake District] – its MEGA! Panthers is really special, I’ve made lots of friends and I’ve been going for a long time so it must be good!' - Helen Gregson, Founding Panther
'Calvert makes me feel excited because the activities are set up for people like me, which means that I can do everything. I love Panthers because I have made lots of friends and I can get involved with everything without any problems. I love going to Panthers every week, and it is really special when we all get to go to Calvert together.' - Ruth Cowan, Panther for 8 years.
'It was good to come along [to Panthers] each week and play all sorts of games. We also went on a few of the weekend trips to The Calvert Trust in the Lake District and they were great times.' - Isaac Towers, former Panther and Team GB Paralympic Athlete/European Champion.
'The club is just absolutely amazing. To see so many smiling faces was just brilliant. It also helped me to start all my volunteering work and then go into working with Children and young adults with a disability.' - Stephanie Slater, MBE, former Panther Volunteer and Team GB Paralympic Gold Medal Winner.