British sporting heroes Ellie Simmonds OBE and Lutalo Muhammad have thrown their support behind SportsAid Week 2017 by signing up to be official ambassadors of this year’s initiative. Ellie and Lutalo, who both received a helping hand from SportsAid at the beginning of their careers, are giving their backing to the fundraising drive, taking place from 25 September to 1 October, designed to support the next generation of athletes striving to represent Team GB and ParalympicsGB at future Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The inaugural SportsAid Week was launched in 2016 to mark the charity’s 40th anniversary and generated over £40,000 with Olympians, Paralympians, up-and-coming athletes, National Governing Bodies, schools, universities, commercial organisations and individuals coming together for a week of fun and fundraising. The initiative was such a success that it has now become an annual fixture. Five-time Paralympic champion Ellie, who also acted as a SportsAid Week ambassador last year and called it a ‘big celebration’, said ‘I can't wait for it to come back around again this September’.
"I love meeting the young athletes SportsAid supports and seeing the drive and determination they have to be the best they can be,” said swimming legend Ellie. “I remember when I had help from SportsAid and it's really important when you're starting out in your sport. It gives you the confidence to push on and succeed knowing that there are people out there who believe in you. That’s why SportsAid Week is such a great idea. It’s an opportunity to show the next generation of athletes that we’re right behind them and want to do what we can to help them on their way.”
Team GB taekwondo star Lutalo has joined Ellie in urging the British public to ‘make a real difference to our future Olympic and Paralympic champions’ by calling for widespread support of SportsAid Week. The charity helps over 1,000 athletes across more than 60 sports each year, the majority aged 12 to 18, as they and their parents look to meet costs such as equipment, accommodation and transport. Olympic silver and bronze medallist Lutalo received help from SportsAid for three consecutive years - the first award coming shortly before turning 18 in 2009.
Last year’s SportsAid Week saw a diverse range of fundraising activity undertaken including bake sales, sports quizzes, fancy dress days, raffles, bucket collections and healthy eating challenges. Raising as little as £5 can be enough to help a young athlete travel to their next training session whilst £1,000 is able to fund a major one-off cost such as a warm-weather training camp or transport and accommodation for an international competition. Lutalo, who was targeting selection for London 2012 at the time, recalls how ‘grateful’ he was to have ‘received the support when I did’.
“SportsAid has played an instrumental role in my career,” said Lutalo. “The money allowed me to go to a couple of extra tournaments where I was noticed by the GB Academy. You see the financial pressure you’re putting on your mum and dad, all because they want to help you achieve your dream of becoming Olympic champion, so receiving that help from the outside provides you with the recognition you’re going in the right direction. Fundraising is so important to SportsAid being able to give out financial awards to young athletes - just like they did for me.”
SportsAid Week 2017 also sees the introduction of the #MyMiles challenge – a social media led campaign asking fundraisers to undertake physical activity, covering a distance of their choice, to raise money for the charity. The inspiration behind the concept came after many fundraisers decided to support young athletes by taking on sponsored triathlons, bike rides, rows, run, swims and walks during last year’s initiative. #MyMiles is accessible to everybody – you can do a single mile or cover 40 – that’s the distance a SportsAid athlete, on average, will clock up each week in training.
SportsAid has played a vital role in the success of British sport since 1976. The charity’s impact was demonstrated at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games when 150 medals (64 gold, 43 silver, 43 bronze) were won for Team GB and ParalympicsGB by previous beneficiaries of SportsAid awards. Sir Mo Farah, Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Laura Trott CBE, Dame Sarah Storey, Adam Peaty MBE and Georgie Hermitage MBE are just a small group of SportsAid alumni, in addition to Ellie and Lutalo, that won medals in Rio.
SportsAid Week takes place from Monday 25 September to Sunday 1 October. You can find out more about this year’s initiative and the #MyMiles challenge by clicking here.