Fun for all the family as Joelle hits the beach
Joelle Blaikie loves nothing more than a day at the beach. The 14-year-old squeals with delight when she’s splashed by her brothers and sisters and enjoys having her feet buried in the sand.
Watching her, it is hard to imagine that Joelle – who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair – was once unable to get onto the sand; playing at the water’s edge was simply unthinkable.
And because Joelle couldn’t get on the beach her mother, Fiona, who was a single parent at the time, didn’t feel able to let her younger children go either. It was particularly frustrating for her eldest son, Sonny, who was desperate to climb on the rocks.
Fiona said, “It was massively frustrating for everyone. We were all left watching from the sidelines and not being able to get our feet in the sand.”
Everything changed the day Fiona came across a specially-adapted beach wheelchair during a visit to the seaside town of North Berwick. Fitted with bulbous all-terrain wheels and made from rust-proof materials, the chairs move easily across the sand and can be used at the water’s edge.
Seeing the potential, National Lottery-funded charity Sea the Change bought 3 beach wheelchairs for use at Coldingham Bay, a sheltered beach just 4-minutes drive from the Blaikies' home in Eyemouth.
The impact for Fiona, Joelle and her siblings has been nothing short of remarkable. Fiona said, “Having the beach wheelchairs has completely changed everything because we can access the entire beach. There’s nothing holding any of us back.
“Joelle really loves it. For her the sensory experience is really important – the smell of the beach and the sound of the waves and children laughing. She loves that and you can see her coming to life. It’s beautiful to watch.”
The excitement of a day at the beach for Fiona and her family is a great example of the fun things that happen with the help of National Lottery funding. Or, as a new National Lottery campaign puts it: When we all play a little, fun stuff happens.
Teenagers like Joelle aren’t the only people who can use the beach wheelchairs, of course. Fiona recalls a day when a couple pulled up in their car at Coldingham Bay and watched Joelle playing at the water’s edge. Fiona realised the woman was a wheelchair user and told her there was an adult-sized beach wheelchair she could try.
She said, “The woman burst into tears because she hadn’t been down to the water in something like 20 years. It was an amazing moment. They spent about an hour on the beach and it reminded you of just how special it is.”
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25th May 2021
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