Meeting Jack: A Paralympian in the Making

In April, we received an email from the organisers of Elevate Arena - a two-day trade show focussing on physical activity, health and performance that we were attending in early May. It was entitled ‘We need your help make Jack’s wish come true.’ We were poised and ready for action, whatever the wish may be.

Elevate and Aspire had partnered with the Starlight Foundation to make a special day for Jack Latham, a young disabled boy who dreams of becoming a Paralympian. Well, this was right up our street! Reading further into the email, we heard how Jack is an eight-year old boy from Hertfordshire with Cerebral Palsy; a condition marked by impaired muscle coordination. He would be attending the Elevate exhibition with his parents and twin sister Rebecca, and she too has this condition.

After a discussion lasting all about 60 seconds, Team Rugged unanimously decided that we would like to donate a Compact CardioWall to his school. This, we decided, was to be kept a secret from Jack and the rest of the Latham family until 10th May when we would meet them all at Elevate.

We’ve seen people of all ages and all abilities benefit from and love the CardioWall, so we were in no doubt that Jack would be the same. We planned for Jack and his family to visit us at our stand and spend some time on the CardioWall, which would then give us the perfect opportunity to surprise Jack and let him know that his school would be getting one of their own.

I got in contact with St. Meryl School and spoke to Michele, the headmistress there. I explained how the numerous schools around the UK who have CardioWalls use them for PE lessons, extra-curricular activities and special needs development. We also discussed the physical and psychosocial benefits that come from using it. Michele’s response;

“Wow! That sounds so exciting!”
The school was on-board, the plan was in motion.

10th May 2017: It was the first day of the exhibition at Excel in London. Signs and banners were up everywhere welcoming Jack and his family to the event. This was clearly going to be one special day for the twins. At 10am, in strutted Jack, followed by his sister Rebecca (the parents were lagging just behind, struggling to keep up with the two children who were unbelievably excited).

We introduced ourselves and before we knew it, Jack and Rebecca had dropped their walking aids and were standing in front of the Compact CardioWall assessing what to do and how to get going. Both Jack and Rebecca had good upper body strength and coordination, but lacked some muscle control in their legs. However, this didn’t hold them back. They were soon bashing away at the CardioWall, boxing gloves on, smiling and laughing like the true champions that they are.

The twins partnered up and played every game on the CardioWall, doing all they could to increase their top score. They must have beaten their personal best nearly 10 times over the morning and Jack made quite sure that their names would be on our leaderboard for everyone to see – and quite right too! It was absolutely brilliant and utterly inspiring for all of us to see. They took to it instantly and the more they played, the better and more accurate they got.

“Can we play again?” was repeated again and again and again. Quite frankly, I don’t know how they lasted until 4pm that day, they’d worked their socks off! They had a packed schedule at Elevate, with other exhibitors to visit and para-athletes to meet. So much to their dismay, Jack and Rebecca were told they had to move on elsewhere, but not before we broke the news that we would be donating the CardioWall to their school.

They were absolutely ecstatic, grinning from ear to ear and already explaining how they’d teach all the other children at the school how to use the CardioWall and how they’d keep upping their scores.

"This is already the best and most fun day ever"
- said one very happy Jack!

The CardioWall is currently in production and what’s more, Jack has given us clear instructions on how he would like the bespoke graphics to look – blue with plenty of stars. We thought that couldn’t be more apt! We will certainly be following Jack’s progress over the next few years and plan to visit him and Rebecca at the school to see how they’re getting on.

It was fantastic to meet them both and so rewarding for us to know we had done our bit to help Jack on his journey to become a Paralympian… watch this space!

by Lucy Manley

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