Community helps fund racing wheelchair to support the Paralympic dream of Hitchin's Jack Gower
PUBLISHED: 08:30 28 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:39 28 September 2018
A 12-year-old boy with cerebral palsy has his sights firmly set on competing in the Paralympics after £3,400 was raised for his very own racing wheelchair.
Jack Gower, who lives in Stotfold Road in Hitchin, has spastic paraplegic cerebral palsy – a condition which makes his limbs extremely stiff.
He had to use a wheelchair or frame to walk, and was on medication constantly to relax his muscles, until a life-changing operation in July 2015 meant he could walk independently.
Jack had surgery at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital to sever the nerves carrying signals to the brain which cause the muscles to permanently tighten, and he now only needs to use a wheelchair for long distances.
Earlier this year, Jack discovered a love of wheelchair athletics and since January has enjoyed weekly training sessions at Ridlins in Stevenage, becoming a member of the Stevenage and North Herts Athletics Club.
But until now he has been training with a broken racing wheelchair, which is too big for him and belongs to the club.
The community has rallied round, supporting the Gower family at events including a cake sale at the Hitchin 10k in May, and has helped raise £3,400 to buy Jack his very own racing wheelchair.
The final £900 was raised at a pig roast event at the Edward VII pub in Guilden Morden, organised by the charity Wheels for Martin’s Friends.
Jack’s mum, Ella, said: “If it wasn’t for the surgery Jack wouldn’t be able to race because his legs wouldn’t be in the right position. It has completely changed his life and he’s able to do what he loves.
“Now he’s got the right equipment there’s no stopping him. He’s racing really well in the new wheelchair and he’s absolutely loving it.
“Since he took part in the Virgin Money Giving Mini London Wheelchair Marathon in April he’s got the bug for it.
“He also did the Vitality Westminister Mile in May and is just waiting to be classified so he can compete in all races and competitions.
“He wants to be a future Paralympian and there’s no reason why he can’t be. He knows it will be hard work, but he’s more than happy to do it.
“Every time some says he can’t do something he says ‘I can and I will’ and, once he puts his mind to something, he will do it.
“He’s an incredible boy and has exceeded all expectations.”