It's a funny old frame: Disabled kids play footie for first time thanks to supports on wheels
Charlene Dickey admits she had a tear in her eye last week when she watched her son Oliver playing football for the first time.
The plucky seven-year-old was born with a form of cerebral palsy and was only able to walk after surgery in the United States 18 months ago.
And now he has just realised another dream — by taking part in a special kickabout under the gaze of his proud mum.
Frame Football allows children with mobility problems to play the game using supports on wheels.
And Charlene described seeing her son in action with a ball as a “miracle”.
“Never in my life did I ever imagine seeing him run around with his wee friends,” said the mum-of-two from Coleraine.
“You’re sitting there watching him and then you realise you’re crying. It’s incredible.”
Charlene, 30, continued: “I heard about Frame Football on the internet so we thought we would give it a go and it’s amazing.
“When Oliver was in his wheelchair he never had dirty shoes and now he is coming in and scuffing the floor, it’s definitely not something I ever thought I would be complaining about.
“To see him standing up and then running is amazing and then the fact that he is kicking the ball too, the fact he has the balance and co-ordination to do it.”
The public raised more than £60,000 to allow Oliver to travel to the United States for pioneering surgery last year.
His courage won him an Overcoming Adversity award at the Specsavers Spirit of Northern Ireland awards.
“The people of Northern Ireland really helped Oliver to walk and now he is playing football,” said Charlene.
“Oliver is so excited about being able to play football, he has my head turned now and we’ve been out buying him football kits.
“It’s just so nice seeing him being able to do something that other children of his age enjoy.”
Jo Stephenson, 36, from Stoneyford, has been bringing her nine-year-old son, Charley, to the club and like Charlene, she was overwhelmed by the sight of her son on a football pitch, kicking a ball and enjoying some exercise.
He was born with arthrogryposis, which means some of his joints don’t move as much as normal and are even stuck in one position.
Jo said: “We had all these questions from day dot, we wanted answers but no doctor was willing to tell us whether they thought he was going to walk.
“That’s what makes it even more special now he is playing football.
“We didn’t tell him until a few days before because I thought he wouldn’t go, he is quite conscious about everything and football has always been something he couldn’t do, so he has always said he hated it.
“I never thought I would get to experience seeing him play football so as a parent I am so proud that he has done it. I have always tried to bring him up that no matter how bad the situation is, you try to get the good out of it.”
Jo added: “Life is very tough on Charley, his situation isn’t ideal but we will get through it and the football is just something that helps him to feel like every other little boy his age.”
Frame Football, which runs at Loughside Recreation Centre on the Shore Road in north Belfast every Saturday between 1pm and 2pm, has been brought to Northern Ireland by Tim Wareing.
He said: “It’s been up and running over in England for a while and we thought it would be great if we could bring it to Northern Ireland.
“It’s been a while getting ready to start it up over here getting the training sorted and we couldn’t have done it without Colin Murray either, who very kindly ran around Belfast in a green mankini on Boxing Day to help raise the funds we needed to run the club.
“The club is open to boys and girls of all ages and we really want to get as many involved as possible and hopefully it will continue to grow and we can set up more teams.”
- To find out more about Frame Football, ring Tim Wareing on 07740 120 788.