Disability Challengers was founded in 1979 as the Guildford Adventurers Association by Paediatrician Dr Helen Foley and leisure centre manager Colin Hassell. The charity’s aim was to try to address the imbalance of play and leisure opportunities for disabled children and young people.
Initially sessions for the children were held at a local leisure centre in Guildford, Surrey, but the need for services quickly grew and in 1984 the charity opened their first custom designed Playcentre on Stoke Park, Guildford. The Challengers Guildford centre was opened by Princess Margaret with the aim of improving activities and facilities for disabled children, young people and their families.
In 1995 Guildford Adventurers Association became ‘Disability Challenge’ and continued developing and expanding to include more disabled children. In 2000 the charity changed its name again to Disability Challengers.
There have been a number of phases in the charity's development over 30 years, but today Disability Challengers works with more than 1200 individual children, delivering 20,000 visits. The charity delivers services throughout Surrey and Hampshire.
Alongside the local authority and other Surrey-based play organisations, Disability Challengers has been influential in coordinating the growth and delivery of play and leisure across Surrey to develop the Play and Leisure Consortium.
Disability Challengers receives funding by local authorities, but a significant proportion comes from fundraising from companies, trusts, community groups and individuals as well as fundraising events run by the charity supporters.
For 14 years Ric Law directed the charity, establishing Disability Challengers as a voice for play for disabled children in Surrey. In September 2011 Laura Sercombe took over as CEO after having worked as Operations Director at 2 national charities.
Inclusion at Disability Challengers
Disability Challengers schemes welcome all disabled children, including those children who need 1:1 support, have complex impairments, medical conditions, children with Autism and emotional and behavioural difficulties. The charity has a non exclusion policy which means that there are some children and young people who access a service at Challengers alone.
It is the charity’s belief that the play environment is the perfect environment for disabled and non-disabled children to develop their understanding and acceptance of each other.
To begin with, the charity develops play and youth schemes exclusively for disabled children. Then, as space allows and the service is established as a ‘secure, strong and familiar place’ for disabled children, they welcome non-disabled children to join the scheme.
The Charity has a commitment to supporting volunteers who often arrive with little experience of disability but are offered training and support to be able to achieve a real sense of understanding that is taken into their own lives and benefits society as a whole.
Challengers Play and Youth Services
Charity official website .