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wheels in motion for an epic year

Fifty years ago, in 1960, eight wheelchair users committed to improving the lives of people with physical disabilities formed the Irish Wheelchair Association.

Today, the association has more than 20,000 members and 2,000 staff, as well as many dedicated volunteers.

Keeping the name of the association in the public eye have been scores of brilliant athletes who started competing in Paralympic-style events at home and abroad and paved the way for the modern Paralympic movement.

In more recent years, no Flora Mini Marathon was the same without a contingent of strong wheelchair athletes. Among them was Patrice Dockery, who for many years led home the annual cavalcade, often in stunningly fast times of well under the half-hour.

Patrice is now retired, but her spirit lives on and last year a record number of women turned out for the Flora Women's Mini Marathon.

"We had a big group of about 50 from Tipperary, plus another large group from Portlaoise," says Helen Power from the fundraising section of the IWA.

Not all of them were in wheelchairs.

"We had a lot of walkers, such as myself and our CEO Kathleen McLoughlin. I can't say enough for the services along the way. If we stopped for any reason, the guards or race officials would come over to check that we were all right. I had forgotten what a good day out it is!" says Helen.

Their efforts raised around €70,000 in much-needed funds for IWA all across the country. Among the services offered by the IWA are personal assistance, 57 local centres around the country with educational and social activities on offer, the IWA buses, driving lessons, wheelchair-accessible apartments and houses, and holiday centres in Roscommon, Dublin and Kilkenny.

Then there's the huge sports programme, wheelchair repair and rental, youth services and rehabilitative training.

3Want to join the IWA team? Contact Helen Power at fund@iwa.ie or on 01-8186469.