Philip gets a huge kick out of staying active. A YMCA East Surrey member since 2015, he attends our disability multi-sport sessions, as well as a weekly dance class and our Y-Mania nightclub experience.

Although Philip, who has Downs Syndrome, particularly enjoys badminton, he’s tried most activities, even using the sports wheelchairs to join in with seated sports. Not only has he lost weight and become more flexible but, as he enjoys mixing with others, it has proved to be a great way for him to build on his social skills while getting the most out of the sessions physically.

Philip, 37, says:

“I’m a big music fan – I love Status Quo and George Ezra. Dancing gets me moving and trying different sports is fun. I look forward to the multi-sport sessions because I like to stay fit and healthy. I’d miss it a lot if I couldn’t come to the YMCA.”

Our disability multi-sport sessions are fully inclusive and led by qualified coaches or instructors. Sessions take place at the YMCA Sports & Community centre in Redhill and locally at day centres and residential homes within the borough of Reigate and Banstead. Activities include badminton, boccia, football and wheelchair basketball, plus sessions with musical instruments, parachutes and dancing which are aimed especially towards people with more profound physical and learning issues.

Staff from Peak 15, the adult social care organisation which provides a supported living service for Philip, say that he loves to come home and chat about the sessions afterwards.

“He thoroughly enjoys the interaction,” says Sharon Davies, Peak 15 Service Manager at Philip’s house. “He sometimes supports other people at the sessions, building friendships and improving his caring skills alongside his coordination.”

There are many benefits to encouraging activity and fitness for people with physical and learning difficulties. Thanks to funding from the Peter Harrison Foundation, we have a dedicated Inclusive & Disability Sports Coordinator, Russ Bewley. Russ says:

“Our sessions improve both physical and psychological wellbeing, with benefits such as reduced anxiety, increased self-esteem and improved mood. There’s an association between higher reported levels of physical activity and increased quality of life, as indicated by levels of participation at sessions like ours at the YMCA.”

The YMCA East Surrey Boccia team plays in League matches within the Boccia England Southern region and is growing in numbers and skill. In 2023, we hosted both a National Boccia Leaders Award and a Refereeing/Officiating course Level 1.

Russ says:

“Despite the significant health benefits, both adults and children with learning disabilities have lower levels of physical activity than their typically developing peers, hence our continued push to get more people involved in sports. Funding and awareness are key, especially with the need for recruiting inclusive sports coaches, assistants and volunteers.

The atmosphere at our disability sports sessions is so positive! It’s a break for the carers who join in alongside all the participants and everyone has a chance to let off steam and enjoy each other’s company.”