Over 500 hours of training, 18 trophies and nine years later, a unique cheerleading squad based in Bradford is reflecting on its achievements during Learning Disability Week.
The Jewels cheerleading squad, run by Hft, is made up of 13 people with learning disabilities. Established in 2010 off the back of an NHS project on inclusive sport, the group recently earnt its 18th gold medal at the Allstars Championships event in Leicester.
Learning Disability Week takes place from 17 to 23 June, with the theme for 2019 focusing on sport and inclusion. To mark the occasion, the Jewels are reflecting on their unbroken success record, with key achievements ranging from performing for Princess Anne to taking part in international championships, including a worldwide competition at Disneyworld in Florida.
The group of adults, who range in age from 18 to 42, train weekly and are supported by three Hft support workers, one team leader, and a professional coach. In the last decade, the squad’s hard work has paid off and they’ve gone from strength to strength, coming home with a trophy each time they compete.
As well as their competitive success, cheerleading has proven to be life-changing for individual members of the troupe. One woman supported by Hft previously struggled being in close proximity to others and didn’t enjoy socialising. An Hft staff member notes that being part of the Jewels has “opened up a whole new world” for her, even leading to her conquering her fear of flying to travel to Florida to compete.
Sally Dyson, Team Leader at Hft, said:
“Learning Disability Week is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the Jewels. I’m consistently proud of the team and the amazing success they’ve had over the years. We’ve achieved so much and regularly compete – and win – against able-bodied teams. The cheerleading community is so accepting and there’s a wonderful sense of belonging amongst the group. The people we support get so much out of being part of the squad, from regular exercise to a chance to socialise. The Jewels really are a shining example of inclusivity and a testament to our commitment to supporting adults with learning disabilities to live the best life possible.”
Neil, a member of the Jewels, said:
“I love coming to the Jewels every week. I am part of a team and we work hard to get our medals, and keep fit and healthy at the same time.”
Hft offers person-centred learning disability services ranging from residential care to supported employment and supported living at home – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day.
Notes to editors
Hft is a national charity that creatively supports more than 2,200 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Services range from residential care to supporting people to live independently in their own homes – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.
Established in 1962, Hft is funded in two ways: through local authorities, who fund vital support services, but also through donors, supporters and volunteers who enable us to find new ways to help more people to thrive rather than just get by.
For more information about Hft please visit www.hft.org.uk
Location: Hft Bradford