For the past year, volunteers from Bristol after Stroke have been helping to run a pioneering new project engaging stroke-affected people in playing walking netball. Now their efforts have been rewarded with a prestigious award for inclusion.

The award comes from England Netball, which recognised the achievements of the group at a regional ceremony at the end of June. They scooped the category of “An individual or organisation who is using netball to address equity, promote inclusion and participation of all people to belong in netball”.  

Bristol after Stroke’s walking netball group will now go forward to England Netball’s national awards, being held later this year.

Each week, about a dozen stroke-affected people take part in the walking netball on a court at Speedwell. Says the charity’s CEO Rebecca Sheehey: “We were first inspired by one of our group members who felt it would help stroke-affected people get back into regular exercise and encourage them to socialise. We then worked with England Netball and Westport to start the weekly sessions

“It’s now being run by strokeaffected people for stroke-affected people – and we feel very proud of their achievements and to be part of the netball family. Great things come of working in partnership.”

Meet the volunteers

The two volunteers running the walking netball sessions are Debs Stevens and Helen Sugrue. “We get about 12 turning up each week,” says Debs, “they're such nice people and you get lovely feedback. Everyone’s got to know each other. We even know each other’s names now – which took a while as our memories aren’t always great!

“We all end up in the pub afterwards for a coffee or lemonade, and it’s wonderful just to go out again... I don't see my old friends so much now, but I have lots of new ones.”

Adds Helen: “I hadn’t played netball since school, and after surviving a coma, three tracheotomies and a stroke in 2016 – and not being expected to live – the chance to play again was beyond all my dreams.
Playing certainly has it challenges, as I can abruptly lose the strength in my legs, but doing the regular exercises has led me gaining much more flexibility and mobility: a couple of weeks ago I found myself able to pass the ball around my back – something that would have been impossible when I began.

“But the best part has been watching the others in the group develop…it’s been like flowers blossoming.”

Bristol After Stroke is registered in England and Wales under Charity Company Number: 11841993 and Charity Number: 1182124 at The Gatehouse Centre, Hareclive Road, Hartcliffe, Bristol, BS13 9JN. We use cookies to improve your experience using this website.
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