‘Ray of Sunshine’ wins Inverclyde Disabled Sports Personality Award

Emma Thompson, 32, who is described as a ‘Ray of Sunshine’ has picked up the top award in the disabled category of the Inverclyde Sports Personality Awards. Emma was ‘buzzing’ to be presented with the award at a Gala Dinner and Awards evening at Greenock Town Hall recently.

Emma has Down’s Syndrome, and as an avid swimmer was nominated for her dedication to the sport, as she has picked up medals at every gala she has entered over the last few years.

Emma, from Port Glasgow, has recently embraced independence and moved to her own residence with the help of Quarriers ABC Supported Living Service, which she loves. She shares a house with another lady and two good friends live next door and they enjoy a great social life together.

Quarriers ABC Supported Living is a housing support service enabling people with a range of levels of physical and learning disability to maintain their own tenancies and live a fully involved life within their local communities.

Sheila Thompson, Emma’s mum, said: “Emma lights up a room, she makes everyone around her happy. She’s a ray of sunshine. Anything that Emma wanted to try, and we could safely facilitate, she has had a go. She has been abseiling, kayaking and zip wiring, we’ve always found a way.

“Emma started swimming with the Port Glasgow Otters when she was 14. It took time to get her swimming, but the coaches used clever and diverse methods to teach her to swim. She now has medals for front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke. At the last gala she went to she got a medal for each. She does love a bit of competition!”

Sheila said: “Her support workers are fantastic. ‘Her staff’ as Emma refers to them, have been incredible in the build-up to the awards ceremony. They took her for a new dress, and to get her hair and nails done. They explained what was going to happen on the night so that she was prepared.

“Emma wears a Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA), when she is swimming she has to take that off so she can’t hear instructions. She also has a rare eye condition, so her eyesight isn’t great either. She has severe learning difficulties, so to teach her to swim properly has been a real task for her and she has managed it with the help of her coaches. Despite having these things to deal with, she still manages to do so well.

“Emma is buzzing about winning the award, and she has been telling everyone about it. We are super, super proud as a family. We are very thankful for everyone who got behind her, voted for her and supported her. She is so happy and proud of herself. I think this win is not just for Emma, it will hopefully set the ball rolling for other people whose achievements may go unrecognised. I don’t think anyone with a severe learning disability has been nominated for this award before. For anyone who has special needs like Emma, I say go for it, everything is possible.”

Michelle Barnes, Team Leader for ABC said: “All the staff are so proud of Emma and her achievement. Her Mum has thanked the team for their support in the build-up to the awards enhancing the experience for Emma. Well done to them and Emma, we’re very proud!”

Emma has qualified for the Scottish national swimming competition which will be held in Glenrothes in June. She has also been selected to represent the West of Scotland team at Stirling in July.