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About Us

At The Penguin Sports Foundation we provide sport and rehab opportunities for children with disabilities in North Devon and beyond. Opportunities we currently provide include Hydrotherapy and Frame Running.

Children want to learn to move so that they can play. This is their vocation in life! Movement gives freedom, opportunity and independence! Why not capitalise on the need to move by making therapy, sport and exercise fun! This is especially important in a population that needs opportunities to move more than others.

The importance of early intervention is well documented in research, and getting involved in a healthy, rewarding and fun activity with peers is a great way to develop a positive relationship with sport. It also helps individuals to maintain a lifelong love of movement!

Our Vision

Gemma started GRIPPhysio in 2018, following frustrations in not being able to treat and facilitate what children really need. Over the past 4 years her business has grown tremendously.

However, being just one lone physio in an area with such high demands meant that she was working increasingly longer hours to keep up, and found it incredibly difficult to turn families away. It appears that only those with a higher rate of income/funding can afford the private services their children need - there should not be such barrier in health. Gemma always felt that she was never able to give enough to fulfil the need. She became more and more overwhelmed with the demand and wanted to do something about it.

Gemma has a personal love of athletics and wanted to share her passion with those who traditionally would not be able to access running. She received a £5000 grant from Devon County Council SEN small grants initiative, which gave her the green light to go ahead and start the North Devon Frame Running Club. Moving forward, she was then provided with funding to pilot a hydrotherapy project which became ‘The Penguin Club’.

Gemma's passion for sport and movement has been an incredible motivation in creating these groups where children could meet together, have fun, and gain therapeutic benefit from exercise.

We want to help children to access exercise and develop a positive relationship with sport. Exercise will help their whole development - physically, mentally and socially. This helps children to recognise that they can move in their own way! They can make friends, have fun and do "physio" disguised movement-based activities a little bit outside of the box!

The Need

In the recent 2021 census, 7.2 % of people in North Devon have a disability. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/bulletins/disabilityenglandandwales/census2021#how-disability-varied-across-england-and-wales

Also, 34.4 % of households in North Devon have 1 or more person living with a disability. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/bulletins/disabilityenglandandwales/census2021#how-disability-varied-across-england-and-wales

Children with Cerebral Palsy are predisposed to have an inactive lifestyle due to the physical and energy demands of their impairments. As a result, they have reduced fitness levels, placing them at a higher risk of other health problems. Being physically active will increase strength and mobility, developing a “fitness status”, enabling participation in sport alongside peers and bringing with it a boost to their mental health.

Aerobic and Anaerobic Fitness in Children and Youth with Cerebral Palsy

  • 25% of children with a disability take part in regular sport, compared with 41% of non-disabled children.
  • 4/10 people with a disability agree that sport and physical activity is fair for disabled people.

There are less opportunities for children with disabilities to access sport and leisure activities. In a survey carried out by ‘Contact a Family’ it was found that:

  • 84% of families with children with disabilities go without leisure activities.

Counting the costs 2014 survey

A public inquiry, the ‘Case for Play’ carried out by SENSE in 2015, found that children with disabilities did not get the same access to leisure activities and facilities as their peer groups. With negative attitudes and physical barriers contributing to this:

  • 92% of parents felt their disabled child did not have the same opportunities to play as their non-disabled peers.
  • 81% of parents reported difficulties when accessing mainstream play services.

The Sense Public Inquiry

Connections and Partnerships

The Penguin Sports Foundation raises money to fund therapeutic activity in the form of aquatic physiotherapy and accessible sport for children with physical disabilities in North Devon.

The Penguin Sports Foundation is independent from GRIPPhysiotherapy.

GRIPPhysiotherapy provides a clinical service as a local provider to deliver the hydrotherapy programme, which is funded by The Penguin Sports Foundation.

GRIPPhysio uses the facilities at The Woodland Clinic, Bideford. This is a private arrangement between GRIPPhysio and The Woodland Clinic.

The North Devon Frame running Club receives support from The Penguin Sports Foundation. The North Devon Frame Running club works alongside North Devon Athletics Club. This is currently run by volunteers.