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A Foundation grant will allow more people who use wheelchairs to participate in sport.

Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Aspiring wheelchair athletes will have greater opportunity to participate in organised sport and exercise with a new Northern Region Track and Road Athletics Program launched in Newcastle.

Wheelchair Sports NSW launched the program with a $30,000 grant from the Foundation, which was used to purchase four specialised racing wheelchairs. The grant will also fund venue hire for the program at Newcastle’s Fearnley Dawes Athletics Track, one of only two facilities in the world with a dedicated wheelchair racing lane.

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair Phil Neat said the new program would increase options for sporting participation by wheelchair athletes in regional NSW.

"We know that people with a disability are nine times more likely to report cardiovascular disease and diabetes than those who are not disabled. This program makes healthy lifestyle activities more accessible to people in regional NSW," Mr Neat said.

"We congratulate Wheelchair Sports NSW for bringing this program to the region when previously local people would have to travel to Sydney for similar opportunities, which has proved a barrier to participation."

A boy sitting in a new racing wheelchair, along side his two brothers and mother and wheelchair athlete Kurt Fearnley

"This program makes healthy lifestyle activities more accessible to people in regional NSW."

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chairman Phil Neat

Wheelchair Sports NSW CEO Jim O’Brien said that the Track and Road Athletics program was not just for elite athletes. 

"The Hunter and regional NSW has a huge pedigree in wheelchair racing with Kurt Fearnley, Rheed McCracken and Christie and Andrew Dawes based in the region. While we are excited to uncover new world-class athletes, the major aim of the program is to provide opportunities to every-day people who want access to sporting and healthy lifestyle activities,” Mr O'Brien said.

"Some 75% of people with a disability want to participate more in exercise than they currently do and we are grateful that Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation has enabled us to bring this fun and engaging activity to Northern NSW to provide new opportunities to people in the regions."

The Northern Region Track and Road Athletics Program will be based in Newcastle and operate on a weekly basis. Wheelchair Sports NSW will also take the chairs on regional roadshows and 'come and try' days to towns throughout Northern NSW to promote participation. The first of these 'come and try' days will be held at the Newcastle Fearnley Dawes Athletics Track this Saturday, 9am-10:30am, for anyone interested in trying the sport of wheelchair track racing.

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