Get Kids Going! Team Athlete and Paralympian
It is with great sadness that we hear of the passing of Sam.
I first met Sam in 1999, with his mother Sandra, at Stoke Mandeville, when he attended his first wheelchair sports ‘junior mini games’. Sandra, his mum, rushed up to me and said “are you Jane from Get Kids Going! as if you are… you have just got to come and meet my Sam!”
Sandra took me off to the sports hall where Sam was playing in his first wheelchair game at the age of 7. So, this is how I first met Sam. He was doing his very best to play a game of basketball in a wheelchair, which was so dreadfully heavy and cumbersome, I remember he just couldn’t move it around the court.. even though he was trying so hard to push the thing! I could see then he was going to be a determined young athlete with little, if any, fear!
Get Kids Going! soon changed things for Sam. Within a few months, Sam took delivery of his first Get Kids Going! sports wheelchair which was specially built for Sam, painted in his favorite colour purple, and was so light he was doing ‘wheelies’ all over the place much to the distress of his mother!
Sam was very talented and sport mad. He went on to participate in many sports including; wheelchair racing, basketball, cricket, swimming, athletics, table tennis and eventually represented Team GB in the London 2012 Paralympic Games as part of the GB Sitting Volleyball Team! We all knew, from the beginning, Sam would go far.
I will, never forget, our trip to the Great North Run, when Sam took part in the Junior Wheelchair Race. We all went to Newcastle in support, including; his mum, grandad, grandma, Jess, his sister and me! What a wonderful weekend we had with Sam. We all travelled together in a mini bus to the stadium flying round corners in a rush to make the start! Well.. we got Sam on the start line just in time, in his new Get Kids Going! racing wheelchair, at the legendary Gateshead International Stadium. The then Brendan Foster, now ‘Sir Brendan’ came over to welcome us to the Great North Run junior games. We were all so proud of Sam that day – being one of his first major sporting achievements, having been selected to take part in the wheelchair racing at such a young age.
There was no stopping Sam from then on. He went on to be selected by Disability Sport Wales for many athletic events being ask to attend the; Cardiff International Championships, Irish International Championships, British Junior Athletics Championships and many more. Sam was a very talented wheelchair racer and entered his first Flora London Marathon Junior Wheelchair race in 2002, at the age of 11, when he came 3rd. He went on to take part in the London Marathon junior races in 2003, 2006 and 2009 always finishing in the top 5. Get Kids Going! was delighted to supply Sam with all his racing wheelchairs.
He also showed great potential at shot, discus and javelin. Sam was selected as a full member of the Welsh international athletics team, attending all the training programmes including their warm weather training in Portugal.
Along with athletics Sam had a wonderful talent and great interest in disability cricket and played at Old Trafford. Sam was in the team and became a spectacular bowler. In his first game, for Wales, against England he took three wickets for nine in just four overs! On the cricket field Sam was every batsman’s fear!
Sam, was one of the first youngsters to receive a Get Kids Going! sports wheelchair and we had many outings with Sam and Louise Hunt, who was a great sporting buddy, and who encouraged him to participate in everything sporty. Louise was the first Get Kids Going! youngster to receive a Get Kids Going! tennis wheelchair which was presented to Louise by Sir Cliff Richard at Wimbledon when she was only 5.
Sam went on to progress in athletics and went on to become British Junior champion, Junior world champion and eventually World champion but due to his disability he was forced to give up athletics and wheelchair racing. At that point many youngsters would have given up playing sport altogether but.. not Sam!
In 2008 he changed sports and took up sitting volleyball – a sport he absolutely loved! Get Kids Going! was happy to award Sam annual sports grants for his sitting volleyball competitions and training. In 2010 Sam travelled as part of the GB team to Egypt where he represented team GB in the sitting volleyball world cup. Sam was dedicated to his volleyball taking part in the ECVD Continental Cup in 2011 when Team GB beat the USA. At the age of 20, Sam decided to leave home and move to Cardiff so he could be closer to his team mates and, more importantly, his training facilities and trainers at Disability Sport Wales. Sam was encouraged at every turn by Anthony Hughes, Performance Manager for Wales. Sam joined the Celtic Dragons and became renowned as one of the best ‘outside hardhitters’ in the game. Sam was dedicated to his sport and so was selected for the GB Sitting Volleyball team and represented his country at the London 2012 Paralympic Games reaching the quarter finals. This had always been Sam’s dream. He wanted to be a Paralympian and represent Wales and Team GB at sitting volleyball. I remember going to see Sam in action at the Paralympic Stadium in London when his performance was outstanding. It was such a joy to meet up with Sandra, his mum, Mark his dad and Jess his sister who were just filled with emotion watching him play. It was a wonderfully proud moment for all the family.
After London 2012 Sam went on to play for the Telford Eagles Sitting Volleyball Club and became one of their friendliest team’s coaches. He was also a talented guitarist, singer/song writer and musician and would play his guitar for most of his mates and friends.
Sam, was, undoubtedly, one of my favourites as I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting him so young and watch him grow up through his sport. I had the great pleasure of feeling part of Sam’s family who were always so loving and welcoming. Every time you met Sam he gave you a most beautiful, innocent, smile. I will always remember Sam for his smile and the kindness and friendship he gave to so many people.
Tragically, Sam died, unexpectedly, in January at the young age of 31. We know how much he will be missed by his family. We send all our love to his mum, Sandra, dad Mark, sister Jess, son Rhys and all Sam’s family at this very sad time.
I would like to say, on behalf of everyone at Get Kids Going!
“Thank you Sam… for the honour of having you on our team, for being one of the charity’s most wonderful sporting Ambassadors and for giving us such joy and pleasure during the very short time you were with us. Even though we have now, tragically, lost you – you will never be forgotten and you will forever remain in our hearts – especially mine”.
From Jane Emmerson, Chief Executive, Get Kids Going!
16th February 2022