Twelve talented Teesside sportspeople are celebrating after receiving vital financial support to help them fulfil their potential.
Local talents from the sports of athletics, judo, swimming, rowing, badminton, wheelchair racing and canoeing received grants worth a total of £10,500 from the FAST Fund, run by charitable movement, Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.
Among the winners was 16-year-old athletics star Amy Carr, who has received £2,100 towards her aim of qualifying for the GB senior team for June’s European Championships in Italy and, longer term, the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Amy, from Eaglescliffe, won a gold and two silvers at last year’s Cerebral Palsy World Senior Games and 200m gold at the England National Under 17 Championships.
Mum Sarah said: “I nearly cried when we learned we’d received a FAST Fund grant. It was a mixture of relief and gratitude because athletics means so much to Amy. The money basically means she can continue doing what she loves because she’s starting to mix with the seniors and it can be so expensive.”
Meanwhile, Billingham’s Alex Kelly, netminder in the tough and fast-flowing sport of ice hockey, received £1,000.
Alex, who has played ice hockey since the age of five, has been selected to represent the North of England, covering an area from Whitley Bay to the north, Hull to the south and Manchester to the west.
The 15-year-old, who attends Northfield School in Billingham, said: “This funding is fantastic news for me because it means I can aim at playing at the highest standard possible. Right now I play for Billingham’s under-15s and under-18s but I want to go on to play for the first team and play professionally over the next few years.”
“The cost of equipment to actually play in goal as netminder is astronomical, with full kit costing in excess of £2,500. I’ve grown four inches in the last 12 months, so need to replenish my kit, while travelling and accommodation for international tournaments quickly adds up, so the FAST Fund grant is a big boost.”
Wheelchair racer Jade Jones, Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, received £1,000 as she looks to compete in her second Paralympics in Rio this summer, having competed at the 2012 London Olympics as a 16-year-old.
Jade said: “In order to gain the qualification times for the Paralympics, I need to travel to the fastest tracks in the world, most of which are in America. The FAST Fund grant is helping to fund my trip there and allow me to follow my dream.”
Set up thanks to the generous support of 45 local companies and individuals, the £120,00 FAST Fund - Financial Assistance for Sportspeople on Teesside (FAST) - provides grants for the region’s talented sportspeople as they strive to reach the top of their chosen game.
The Foundation is keen to help young talents with aims of following in the footsteps of Tees sports stars such as World and European 60m gold medal sprinter Richard Kilty, Olympic swimmer Aimee Willmott and England footballer Stewart Downing.
Talented sports people can apply to the FAST fund for vital funds to enhance their sporting opportunities and develop their talent.
Foundation chairman Andy Preston, the Middlesbrough-born businessman who founded the Philanthropic Foundation in 2011, He said: “Teesside is renowned for its sporting talent but many young talents don’t fulfil their early promise because they are held back due to a lack of finances.
“We hope our initial £120,000 FAST Fund will help our sporting talents fulfil their potential by helping them with expensive necessities such as equipment and overseas tournaments.”
Other FAST Fund grant winners included:
To apply to the FAST Fund for a grant, visit www.fastfund.org.uk