Charlie joins the Elite as chair keeps him in game

Charlie Bonner.
Charlie Bonner.

A 17-year-old Kirton teenager who feared that he would have to give up the sport he loves is celebrating after securing a state-of-the-art sports chair that will allow him to continue playing wheelchair basketball.

Charlie Bonner, who has arthrogryposis, a condition that affects the movement in his joints, has been playing the sport since he was just seven.

Charlie Bonner.

Charlie Bonner.

He’s excelled at the game, securing a place in the famous Sheffield Steelers team who play in the national adult league.

In July this year, having outgrown his current wheelchair, Charlie faced the prospect of giving up the game when he was told that a new sports wheelchair would cost him an eye-watering £3,993.

But thanks to fundraising support from Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families, Charlie has finally raised the funds needed to secure an RGK Elite Sports Wheelchair.

“The charity helped me to set up a Just Giving page and also contacted a number of different organisations to help raise the cash,” said Charlie.

“They spoke to rotary clubs, masons lodges and other charities on my behalf to try and raise the funds.”

Charlie, a sixth form pupil at Skegness Grammar School, also enlisted the support of his 21-year-old cousin, Connor Gilbert, in his fundraising campaign.

As he explained: “He undertook a heart stopping 10,000 feet skydive at UK Parachuting’s Sibson Airfield, in Peterborough, raising a staggering £525 in the process.”

Due to the time taken to raise the funds Charlie was unable to have a new wheelchair in time for the National Junior Championships, that took place in Worcester, in August, and the Sainsbury School Games at Loughborough, in September.

However, when the Sheffield Steelers were invited to play in the Jersey Sports Association annual Disability Games, at the end beginning of December, Caudwell Children stepped in to ensure that Charlie could compete to the best of his ability.

As Charlie’s dad, Simon, explained: “The charity covered the outstanding balance on the wheelchair through their Enable Sport fund, which was a fantastic gesture.

“The new chair is brilliant and it’s had an immediate impact on Charlie’s game. It’s so much lighter and he’s found that he can now travel at the same speed as other players.

“It’s also much more manoeuvrable, so he can get around the court more easily.

“He hasn’t stopped grinning since he got it.”

Charlie’s first competitive game was during the Jersey Disability Games, which also involved mixed coaching sessions between the competing teams.

“It was a great trip,” said Simon. “The teams also got the chance to spend some leisure time together, enjoying a bowling match.

“At the end of the Games there was a formal presentation and Charlie was delighted when he picked up the ‘Personality of the Games’ award.”

Charlie is convinced that his new chair will take him to the next level in the sport. He said: “I’m dedicated, determined and committed to basketball and now that I have my new chair, which will enable me to play on a level playing field with others, I think I may have a good future in the game.

“I have a dream of making it to the Paralympics. A few months ago that dream was beginning to fade, but now, thanks to Caudwell Children, I’m hoping it may become a reality.”

Trudi Beswick, Chief Executive of Caudwell Children, is delighted that Charlie has finally secured the specialist sports wheelchair that he needed.

She said: “Specialist equipment that allows disabled children and young people to compete in sport can cost up to 100 times more than its equivalent in able-bodied competition.

“This is a huge barrier to disabled children who want to participate and often results in them being marginalised.

“Charlie’s new chair will keep his sporting dreams alive and will improve his confidence and wellbeing.

“But it’s only with the support of the general public that we can provide the equipment that disabled children need and deserve, so I would urge people to support Caudwell Children.”

You can donate to Caudwell Children through Charlie’s Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/chair4charlie

Money raised above Charlie’s fundraising target will go to help other children and young people secure specialist sporting equipment.