“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Hope and faith lies at the heart of the Christmas message and whether or not you buy into the Christmas story, living a life with hope and faith allows us to look ahead with optimism and a sense of trust and confidence. This time last year, I had just taken the call from the CEO UK Sport with the news that we were not to be funded for the Tokyo cycle. It was a huge blow and we all felt bruised, angry and rather let down, but we never felt finished. I remember writing my blog at the time reminding myself as much as anyone, that as a sport we are much more than our GB team, even though we want to see the team medal more than anyone. And that hope and faith has served us well over what has been a most challenging year. But look at where we are! We have just launched the new game Rugby 5s, which will allow even more people to enjoy a version of our sport. We have recently partnered with the Lord’s Taverners for our youth programme – an amazing charity whose mission is to ‘give young people a sporting chance’ and with a past and present members list stuffed with celebrities from entertainment and sport. There is still so much potential for youth development and we are pleased to welcome the Sale Sharks as our newest addition to the wheelchair rugby family. Our membership and clubs are still growing with the ‘Berkshire Banshees’ (who came up with that name?) the newest club taking shape, and our coaching course and qualification is proving very popular and is already having an impact on the quality of what we offer as a sport. All of this fantastic activity is what we are about as we continue our commitment to build rich and welcoming wheelchair rugby communities where people can enjoy physical activity, friendship and feel that they are supported. And we can be proud of our GB team who retained the European Championship in the summer.

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It is said that when times are tough you find out who your real friends are and we have certainly been overwhelmed by the many people who have lobbied for us and who have come forward to help us raise the funds to #save GBWR. It is impossible to name them all here, but just a few highlights and our grateful thanks to all of them:

  • 560 supporters who have donated to #saveGBWR with over £83,000 raised with tax relief to date
  • LMAX Exchange who joined us as a new partner
  • Lloyd’s of London, who hosted a fantastic evening of fundraising, inviting the insurance market to engage in our cause and learn about Wheelchair Rugby – we have had donations from: Ascot Underwriting, XL Catlin, Talbot, Tokio Marine Kiln, Alwen Hough Johnson, the John Coldman Charitable Trust, Tysers, Mar Risk Services, Lloyd’s Rugby Club and Bell & Clements
  • Ali Holgate who held a wine tasting evening
  • Gary Thomas, Martyn Salt and Andrew Hall who took part in the Pivot 24 bike race – the UK’s leading 24 hour bike race
  • Jon Guttridge, who climbed the Yorkshire 3 peaks, battling 24 miles, 1,585 of ascent and completed the challenge within 12 hours
  • Jon Scott who ran 13.1 miles, taking on the Birmingham Great Run
  • Andrew Kennedy who competed in the UK Masters Truck Pull for GBWR and retained his title
  • The wider rugby family has also got behind Wheelchair Rugby with Sevenoaks Rugby Club holding a fundraising and profile raising weekend, Gloucester Rugby fundraising for GBWR and Northampton Saints will fundraise at their home match this coming weekend
  • Rothman, the wonderful race horse whose owner Kate Digweed is donating his winnings from this season – so far Rothman has run two races and we have received winnings from both! Rothman takes on his next race on Boxing Day so please cheer him on

Molly Smith merits a special thank you. Six months ago Molly committed herself to running 365 days to raise funds for us. As of today she has run on 173 consecutive days and has a total mileage of over 1100. The highlight for her was achieving a PB in the Great North Run. Her low points are trying to run these dark and early mornings before a 12 hour work day! So far Molly has raised over £2000 but she deserves more for all of this hard work so if you can help her or just want to follow her progress as she runs over the next 6 months, then look for her on Facebook and Instagram #mollyruns365 or #saveGBWR.

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A further huge thank you to Ed Warner, Chair British Equestrian Federation who was the first to come forward to help us and has done so in many, many ways. And a very special thank you to Roger Alwen and his family who have already made an enormous difference to our fundraising efforts and who is committed to helping us further as we get ever closer to Tokyo.

Thank you all, whether you donate or raise a small or a big sum it is very much appreciated and unless you tell us otherwise it will all go towards getting a competitive team ready for Tokyo.

This brings me to the quote which acts as the title of my blog. It resonates for so many reasons: my love for our home and life in Cornwall, the sea which has been my life and is in my soul, and the joy I get watching my young son as he learns to surf and to respect the sea. The respect bit is key – you cannot control the waves, the best you can do is to enjoy them and to harness their power for what you want to do. In the same way there are many things in our sport we just cannot control and our loss of funding was one of them. What we have done this year is to pick ourselves up, use the loss as the catalyst for refocusing on where we are, where we want to be and then getting back on that board to ride the next big wave.

In a few days’ time it will be Christmas and I hope that like me you will be fortunate to enjoy time with those who you love and care about. Have a great one and my next blog will focus on what an amazing year 2018 is going to be for us!

A very happy Christmas.

David Pond