Oakham man Chris gets sponsorship for Special Olympics dream

John Leslie and Terry Forsey of the Travers Foundation with Chris Southwell, from Oakham. The foundation has given Chris �1,250 to help him get to the Special Olympics. Photo: Alan Walters EMN-140721-121028001
John Leslie and Terry Forsey of the Travers Foundation with Chris Southwell, from Oakham. The foundation has given Chris �1,250 to help him get to the Special Olympics. Photo: Alan Walters EMN-140721-121028001
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A basketball player who appealed for donations to be able to compete in the 2015 Special Olympics in Los Angeles has had all of his expenses paid by the Travers Foundation.

Christopher Southwell, 21, of Welland Way in Oakham, was thrilled when he got the letter confirming he was a member of the 2015 Great Britain squad, however he then faced the challenge of raising £2,500 in order to pay for the trip, including the cost of accommodation, flights and kit.

Chris, who has autism, said: “It’s going to be quite tough to raise the funds but I’m determined to do it.”

The former New College Stamford student started playing basketball nine years ago as a hobby, until he was picked to represent an East Midlands team at the national Special Olympics in Leicester.

The highlight of his career was playing for Great Britain at the 2011 Special Olympics in Athens, where he helped the team secure a bronze medal.

Not long after we reported Chris’ plight on 9th May, regular reader John Leslie contacted 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.

Terry Forsey, Chairman of the Foundation, immediately invited John to set up a meeting with Chris to discuss how they could support him - the Foundation has supported about half a dozen applicants since it was established in 2012, and is funded exclusively by donations and fund raising.

The result of this meeting is that Chris has been awarded £1,250 of matched funding from the Foundation to pay for all of his coaching and expenses in travelling to the Special Olympics next year.

Speaking of the significance of the Foundation’s support, Chris said: “It is very important as the Special Olympics do not give any help to athletes going out there, so the support means a lot.

“Some athletes will not be able to raise money like this on their own.

“Thank you to everyone who has supported me - it has been a great help and I could not have done it without them.”

Chris is now looking into sending off the payments in one lump sum, rather than having to pay in monthly instalments.

Terry 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 who, with a little financial help, can achieve their sporting ambitions.

“Chris is a role model to so many people both abled and disabled, and it was such an obvious thing for us to do.

“This would not have been possible had it not been for the paper’s initial story and John’s keen eye.”