A FORMER sportsman has turned his own tragic circumstances into a way to help and inspire others.
Matt Hampson, 27, from Cold Overton, was paralysed from the neck down after a scrum collapsed on top of him during training for the England under-21 squad in 2005.
Since then friends, family and the rugby community has rallied around him to make him as comfortable as possible in his own home which is specially designed with up-to-date technology for his wheelchair and his lifestyle.
Just under a year ago Matt transformed his own trust fund into the Matt Hampson Foundation to help other young people seriously injured through sport.
Matt said: “The support I have had since the accident has been fantastic and it has allowed me to live the life I live now.
“That’s why I felt I could start the foundation. I want to inspire and support young people seriously injured through sport.”
Matt admits he was nervous about the transition but has been overwhelmed by the support he has received.
He said: “We were apprehensive because it was not just for me any more and we wondered if momentum would slow down but it is going really well.
“People are starting to approach us for help as their first port of call.
“We offer mental support as well and help people to start a new life.”
So far the foundation has raised about £300,000 to help others. He said: “I love it, it’s what it’s all about for me.
“I’m not trying to dictate to them but to help them find their niche.”
Former event rider Claire Lomas from near Melton Mowbray who was paralysed in a freak accident while competing in 2007 is also a friend and beneficiary of Matt.
She is planning to walk the London Marathon this year and has given herself a target of one week to complete it.
Matt is looking forward to this year after the success last year of his book “Engage: The Fall and Rise of Matt Hampson”.
The book by Paul Kimmage was shortlisted for the William Hill Award but did not win.
Matt said: “We came second apparently and I was a bit gutted.
“My competitive nature came out and I wanted to win. We won the award in Ireland though which was great for Paul.
“I have has responses from people from all walks of life who have read it and enjoyed it. I even had an e-mail from Bill Clinton.”
With the London Paralympics just around the corner, 2012 is going to be a crucial year for Matt and the foundation.
He said: “I think the Great Britain Paralympics team will be very successful.
“We want to gain momentum and will be jumping on the back of the Olympics and Paralympics for that.
“We are already supporting paralympic table tennis player Rob Davies and pay for all of his bats. I am busier now than I ever have been and I think it’s great. It keeps me out of trouble and I really enjoy it.”
The Walk4Matt event will take place from May 19 to 26 this year and walkers will trek from Rugby, to the Heart of England pub at Weedon.
For more information about The Matt Hampson Foundation and events coming up this year visit www.matthampsonfoundation.org