Breaking down barriers with Boccia
PUBLISHED: 09:00 15 March 2014
Meet Josh Wilkins, an outgoing, sporty teenager with a verve for life and a passion for the sport of boccia.
Josh was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disease affecting one in every 3,500 male babies worldwide.
The condition attacks muscle and hampers movement.
But the 14-year-old from Woodlands Avenue, Sidcup has overcome the limitations one might associate with such an illness to become an international sportsman, representing England and competing at a national level.
His rise to prominence as a talented boccia player has been remarkable and it all might not have happened without the influence of staff at Cleeve Park School, in Bexley Lane, who introduced him to the sport after the London 2012 Paralympics.
Since then he’s been hooked and was talent spotted by Matt Kendrick from Boccia England after attending a “playground to podium” event.
The University of East London scheme encourages children with disabilities to pursue sports.
Josh has since gone on to finish fourth in the national boccia championships and was selected for the England squad in September 2013.
As well as his sporting achievements his mum Zeena, 52, feels it has helped him develop as a person.
“Playing boccia has made a remarkable difference to Joshua’s life, he has become more confident and has made many new friends through the game,” she said.
“My husband and I are so proud of his achievements.
“Seeing him confident and smiling wearing his England shirt brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat as although Joshua has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy nothing was going to hold my boy back from representing England.”
Such has been the enthusiasm for the sport in Bexley that the current club, the Bexley Dodgers, in conjunction with Josh’s school and with help from his parents, is expanding to encourage more people with a wider range of disabilities to get involved.
“Knowing how much playing boccia has changed Joshua’s life my husband and I would like to give other people who have a disability the chance to also play, said Zeena.
“we are now joining forces with the Bexley Dodgers and Cleeve Park School to extend membership to more people.”
Zeena feels that boccia as a sport has the power to improve the lives of many types of people, not just those with disabilities.
“Boccia is a wonderful game that can be played by all ages and by anyone, including those who have disability whether learning, physical or visual,” she said.
“And it can be played at a recreation level right up to international level.”
Josh will be competing at the Boccia England National Championships between Friday, March 28 and Sunday, March 30.
And the first session of the new, expanded Bexley Dodgers will be held on Sunday, April 13 at Cleeve Park School, Bexley Lane, at 10am.