Special schools compete to become Panathlon champons thanks to JCB Group's sponsorship

Around 95 disabled youngsters from across schools in Kent have been able to take part in a Paralympics-style challenge thanks to sponsorship from local car dealer group, JCB Group.

The Panathlon challenge aims to create more sporting opportunities for disabled young people, encouraging them to be involved regardless of their impairment, whether physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional or developmental. The challenge comprises of Paralympics style-sports, including tag rugby, table skills, football, boccia, polybat, kurling and field and track athletics.

Four district teams qualified for the Kent Panathlon Final at Medway Park, with the contestants being joined by new Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch and Paralympian Steve Brown, as well as Group HR Manager for the JCB Group Anna-Lisa Devoil and JCB Volkswagen Medway’s Brand Maker, Eveie Pryke.

Ashley Icenton Chief Executive for the Panathlon charity said: "The Panathlon gives pupils from special schools the opportunity to represent their school in a nationally recognised initiative. It encourages sport and physical activity for all levels of disability and children who may not traditionally take part.”

Commenting on the final, Minister for Sport Tracy Crouch said: “It has been fantastic to see so many young disabled people competing.”

Panathlon Patron Steve Brown, who captained Team GB’s wheelchair rugby team at the 2012 London Paralympics said: “It’s great to be back to another Panathlon event again so soon and seeing such determination on the faces of all the competitors.”

He added: “It’s been fantastic to witness the high sporting ability at the final.”

Malling and Sevenoaks district won their first Kent Panathlon title after several hours thrilling competition. The team, made up of students from Five Acre Wood, Grange Park and Valence Schools, pipped Canterbury and reigning Kent champions Ashford to the title in the tensest of three-way finishes, ahead of the team from Sheppey and Sittingbourne.

The JCB Group, who have been named the top Volkswagen (VW) retailer in the South East following the VW One Business Awards for 2015, which recognises first-class customer care and excellent repair and maintenance facilities, not just volume of sales; deem supporting community projects as an important aspect of its business.

JCB Group HR Manager Anna-Lisa Devoil was on hand with colleague Eveie Pryke to present medals to those taking part. She said: “All the children are extremely inspiring and they have all worked really hard for their medal. We feel humbled to have been part of this and we have had a fantastic day.”

Jonathan Bischoff, Managing Director of the JCB Group said: “We are constantly looking for ways in which we can actively support local education and sporting projects and delighted to have the opportunity to become sponsors of an initiative which clearly embraces both of these important criteria. We are particularly pleased that our support has helped to make this exciting event for children with physical and cognitive impairments possible.”