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Adults with learning disabilities to compete at Bradford dragon boat festival

A team of adults with learning disabilities and their support workers are taking to the water this month for Bradford’s annual dragon boat festival. 

The Aim Higher group, supported by national learning disability charity Hft, is one of the first mixed ability teams to participate in the Multi Charity Championship on 23 June, which forms part of Bradford’s annual three-day dragon boat festival.

The 20-strong team is made up of seven people supported by the charity and 13 members of staff. Together they hope to raise funds for new musical equipment for one of Hft’s day opportunities centres, The Learning Zone.

The keen rowers meet weekly at the service, which hosts the Aim Higher scheme, enabling people with learning disabilities to learn new skills, try a range of sports and challenge themselves.

After enjoying activities spanning from cycling and rock climbing to wheelchair basketball, the group was inspired to enter the race by team captain Anthony Woods. The support worker participated in the festival in 2018 and shared his experiences with the Aim Higher group, who immediately decided they wanted a dragon boat of their own. 

Hoping to raise £1000, the team have been busy training and fundraising since August last year. As well as doing regular supermarket collections and fundraising online, they are being sponsored by Snap Fitness Bradford, who have also been fundraising, and have provided free use of their gym and a weekly personal trainer to provide a boost ahead of the big day. HFT team at Bradford dragon boat festival

The race coincides with this year’s Learning Disability Week, which takes place from 17 to 23 June, and is themed around sport and inclusion. 

Anthony Woods, Hft support worker and team captain, said: “We’re really looking forward to taking part in the dragon boat race. Opportunities like these give people we support the chance to try something new and improve their fitness, all while raising funds that allow us to support people with learning disabilities to live the best life possible.” 

Speaking on behalf of Aim Higher, Khawer and Lewis said: “We are very excited to join all the other teams at the festival and to raise money for Hft. We take part in many different sports but rowing is something we don’t get much opportunity to do, so this is a good chance for us to try something new.”

Gary Foster, manager at Snap Fitness Bradford, said: “‘Snap Fitness Bradford is proud to be supporting the Hft mixed ability team in their first ever dragon boat race. At Snap Fitness we are always looking to support our local community and were provided with a great opportunity with Hft to provide a training facility as well as tips and guidance for such a great cause.”

Hft currently supports more than 2,900 people with learning disabilities to live the best life possible. Services range from supporting people with learning disabilities to live independently in their own homes to providing employment services to help people develop skills and experience for work and helping people to pursue hobbies, make new friends and get involved in their local communities.

To sponsor the Aim Higher group, visit their fundraising page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/hftmixedabilityteam