Josh Wilkins, 17 from Sidcup is fundraising to support his dream of playing Boccia for Team GB at the Paralympics.
Josh is hoping to raise £800-£900 to purchase new Boccia balls by holding fundraising events such as an Easter raffle at his school, Cleeve Park School.
Josh has Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy and requires a wheelchair at all times. Around 5 years ago he was introduced to Boccia, a specialist disability sport similar to Bocce and Bowls, and his dream began.
In 2013 he was invited to a Boccia regional assessment where it was suggested that he should consider competing in competitions and he's never looked back.
He was able to qualify for the National Championships where he came 4th overall. Looking back at this achievement he remember so many people commenting how amazed they were by his natural ability for the sport of Boccia. A few months later he received a letter through the post which to his delight read that he had been selected for the Boccia England squad and would be playing in a pairs international competition at just 14 year old.
He has been in the England squad since that moment and has competed nationally and internationally as a BC4 classification. This has seen him and his parents go on a magical adventure they never dreamed possible, visiting places like Scotland, Poland and even Russia to compete.
Through being part of the Boccia England squad he has made many new friends and worked with some very dedicated coaches. This, combined with an intensive training schedule and his determination to achieve, has seen him achieve three consecutive top three finishes at national level, coming 3rd, 2nd and 3rd, plus an amazing 4th at the GB championships and international pairs gold and an individual quarter final finish, where he lost narrowly to the world number 4 (5-3).
Being in the squad has been a huge achievement and is something he is really proud of and keeps him fully committed to train in order to achieve his personal ambition of representing Team GB in Boccia at the Paralympics.
Unfortunately in the summer he suffered a shoulder injury three weeks before he was due to compete at the GB championships. Luckily after a week of rest the injury healed and he was able to compete, however in October it became difficult to propel the ball the entire length of the court and his throws were coming up very short of the jack ball. This caused him to try to propel the ball with much greater force but this began to affect his accuracy at long distances and then the shoulder pain came back causing him great pain after every training session. He reluctantly went to see the TASS physio and doctor who recommended he have an MRI scan of the shoulder; frustratingly he has been unable to train while he waits for the results to come back. Due to this injury and the potential of it preventing him competing as a BC4, alongside the fact he knows, with his complex disability, he is going to become too weak and eventually unable to throw a Boccia ball his parents and he have decided to invest in a ramp for the following reason.
If he is unable to throw he will be re-classified as a BC3 competitor. This means he will have to start from the bottom again and work my way up the rankings to be selected for Boccia England again, as a result purchasing a ramp now would help to give him an upper hand and be prepared for when he is re-classified and he has to compete as a BC3.
As Boccia ramps are so specialised pieces of disability sport equipment they aren’t sold in the UK so he has had to import a ramp from Greece where the ramp has to be specially designed to his needs which has resulted in most of his saving be spent on purchasing this ramp. Additionally, BC4 competitors use different balls to a BC3 player, his current Boccia balls are too soft and therefore get stuck on the ramp. He has got to somehow find more money to be able to afford a new set of balls, as yet again, they are not sold in the UK so he will have to purchase and import them from Korea at a cost of £800 to £900!
Being able to afford the Boccia balls would enable him to start his training and learn the new techniques required to be able to effectively compete as a BC3 player. Josh says “just to be able to continue playing Boccia while I wait for the results of the scan and learn the extent of my injury would be amazing as without Boccia my life feels ordinary and dull with no excitement in store at the end of a busy week at school. Moreover, this would mean I wouldn’t have to give up a fantastic sport I have a passion and buzz for and give me a second chance at achieving my ultimate sporting ambition of becoming a Paralympian.”
“I would be really appreciative of anything you could offer to help me fund raise for this new Boccia balls.”
If anyone would like to help Josh please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the school office who will pass a message on.
Submitted by Faye Ockelford