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How Lily has been supported by Albion in the Community

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Like many young people, 12-year-old Lily Putman has grown up in a house full of football fans; unlike other children her age, however, playing the sport she and her family love has not always been easy.

Lily has spina bifida and is paralysed from the waist down. Sadly, throughout her young life she has had to make regular visits to hospital and her condition means she faces challenges many people her age simply never have to overcome.

Not that you would know it from talking to her; always cheerful and chatty, Lily is a fantastic example of someone determined to get the most out of life. For the last two years Albion in the Community has been helping her channel that boundless enthusiasm and energy, and giving her the opportunity to get active, become more independent, and perhaps most importantly, have fun.

Two years ago, Lily attended a Christmas party at the American Express Community Stadium which had been organised by the charity for local young people with a disability and their families.

There she met an Albion in the Community coach who invited her along to the charity’s football session for people who use a powerchair or wheelchair. For Lily, it was the chance of a lifetime.

She quickly became a regular at the weekly session, delighted to have the chance to be part of a team, learn new skills, and make new friends. The sessions also provided her mum with much needed respite each week, with Albion in the Community’s qualified and experienced coaches able to adapt sessions so the young players can take part independently from family or friends.

Things were going brilliantly for Lily on and off the pitch, until Covid-19 struck and Albion in the Community took the necessary step of temporarily cancelling its football sessions.

Lily was among many young people with a disability who would usually attend Albion in the Community’s sessions who were now no longer able to play their favourite sport.

Thankfully, as restrictions have lifted, some players have been able to return to action, but sadly not everyone, and not yet Lily and her teammates.

A combination of national restrictions on team and indoor sports, players needing to shield and take extra precautions, and social distancing has meant the session for young people who use a powerchair or wheelchair will likely be one of the last to re-start; and only when it is completely safe to do so.

That is why the additional support Albion in the Community has been able to offer throughout the pandemic has been so vital. Coaches have been holding group sessions on Zoom, socially-distanced wellbeing visits to individual players, checking in regularly with participants and their families, and delivering free meals to players who were having to shield or who were at risk of becoming isolated.

It is support her mum is certainly grateful for. She said: “The wellbeing visits when the charity was permitted to visit in the garden really kept her spirits up during the lockdown.

“Lily doesn’t cope very well with change and found lockdown very challenging, so Albion in the Community’s support has been invaluable.”

The charity will continue to be there for Lily, and the hundreds of other young people with a disability who its coaches support. Phil Broom, the charity’s disability development clubs officer, explained: “We know how hard the last few months have been for many of our players and we’ve done all we can to reach out to as many participants as possible during these challenging times.

“Lily is such a positive person and despite not being able to attend sessions, it’s not affected her motivation to return to football and she is raring to go once we’re able to resume sessions.

“We are all looking forward to football returning for our powerchair players and to seeing Lily with her teammates again.”

Presumably, it is a sentiment shared by Lily and her mum? Absolutely. “There is nothing else locally that Lily can attend because of her disabilities,” said her mum. “It gives me a couple of hours respite and Lily loves going to football.”

 

For more information about AITC’s football programme for people with a disability visit: albioninthecommunity.org.uk

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