Oakham basketball player Chris heads to Special Olympics in Los Angeles

Special Olympics athlete Chris Southwell, from Oakham, with Andrew Hartley and John Lesley of the Travis Foundation which has helped fund his trip. Photo: Alan Walters MSMP-26-06-15-aw001 EMN-150307-093727001
Special Olympics athlete Chris Southwell, from Oakham, with Andrew Hartley and John Lesley of the Travis Foundation which has helped fund his trip. Photo: Alan Walters MSMP-26-06-15-aw001 EMN-150307-093727001

A basketball players is preparing to compete in the Special Olympics thanks to support from a charity and Mercury readers.

Chris Southwell, 22, from Welland Way, Oakham, will take part in the competition in Los Angeles later this month.

Chris, who has autism, first featured in the Mercury in May last year, when he asked for help funding his dream to compete in the games.

He soon came to the attention of the Travers Foundation, a charity based in Gretton which helps 18 to 30 year olds in the area to achieve their sporting and artistic ambitions.

The charity agreed to provide £1,250 of matched funding to help Chris get to Los Angeles. And he will now be part of the Great Britain team when the Special Olympics begin tomorrow.

Chris said he couldn’t wait to compete and realise his dream. He added: “Without the Mercury highlighting my need to raise my own funds, The Travers Foundation responding so quickly and in such a positive way, and all the other people who have helped with the fundraising in the last 12 months, I would never have been able to afford this trip of a lifetime.

“Thank you so very much for your incredibly generous offer of support, I am overwhelmed with your kindness and humanity.”

Chairman of the Travers Foundation Terry Forsey said: “I set up the Travers Foundation to help people just like Chris. There are too many talented people who are unable to access lottery funding but who, with a little financial help, can achieve their sporting ambitions.

The Special Olympics World Games runs from July 25 to August 2. It is a programme of sports training and competition for athletes of any ability level with a learning disability.

Chris will join 7,000 other athletes from 177 countries in the event, which celebrates what people can achieve with the correct support and training. The Great Britain Special Olympics team has 115 members, and Chris is the only basketball player from the East Midlands to have been selected.

For more on the work of the Travers Foundation visit www.travers-foundation.org.uk.