Recovering addicts provide real Olympic legacy

October 1st, 2013
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Olympic gold medallist Kat Copeland, Foundation chairman Andy Preston, North East Athletic sports coordinator Alan Harrisonand, representatives of Tees Rowing Club with the recovering addicts.

OLYMPIC gold medallist Kat Copeland has been a regular visitor to Tees rowing sessions by a team of recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.

The six addicts were inspired to take up the sport at Copeland’s Tees Rowing Clubby Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation.

Foundation chairman Andy Preston said the sessions had been a classic case of the London 2012 legacy in action within the local community.

“This story is all about Olympic legacy and how it can help to break down barriers,” he said.

“The last place you would normally expect to find a group of recovering addicts is in a rowing boat, as it is a sport traditionally dominated by private schools.

“But this was the result of Tees Rowing Club, on the back of Kat Copeland’s incredible achievements, asking the Foundation to help them increase their involvement in the local community.

“It’s been a truly inspiring project that has seen one end of society helping the other end with amazing results.

“Six addicts have stuck with it and worked incredibly hard across the weeks, inspired by regular visits from Teesside’s resident Olympic star.”

Taking part in the project were recovering addicts Shaun Bingham, Marc Groves, Paul Brannigan, Rachel Swann, Anthony Reynolds and a sixth team member known only as Sarah.

All rowers volunteered through the Teesside branch of North East Athletic, a charity that helps addicts towards recovery via sport.

Sports coordinator Alan Harrison, himself a recovering alcoholic, said: “We try to get those we help involved a wide range of sports but we never dreamed that our members would end up rowing along the Tees and spending time with an Olympic gold medal winner.

“We strive to get the recovering addicts involved in mainstream community because many of them genuinely want to escape the life the life they have, but the stigma being an addict carries with it means that’s sometimes difficult.

“I think some people were understandably dubious when this group of recovering addicts turned up at the rowing club but everyone has been overwhelmed by the attitude and determination they’ve displayed.

“Their confidence was on the floor but, with Kat Copeland giving encouragement, they’ve really enjoyed the rowing and it has done them the world of good in terms of their fitness, confidence and social skills.”

“The Philanthropic Foundation has given recovering addicts an opportunity for something they would never have otherwise have had. For that we a truly grateful.”

Steve Barker, learn-to-row coordinator for Tees Rowing Club, said: “It has been both a challenge and a thrill to support the Philanthropic Foundation in what has been a wonderful extension to our outreach programme.

“Back in the 19th Century rowing was bigger than football and we have a vision of widening the perceived narrow base that rowing appeals to.

“This has been all about engaging with a section of society that is perceived to be right at the other end of the spectrum from those we normally attract.”

North East Athletic is now planning a gym-based dry rowing tournament, with the top teams qualifying to take part in a regatta at Tees Rowing Club.

The Foundation’s generous corporate patrons include Middlesbrough FC, Bulkhaul, AV Dawson, Active Financial Services, Ramsdens, Devereux, SABIC, Evolution, Visualsoft, First Choice Labels, Endeavour Partnership, Onyx Group, Unasys, Cleveland Cable Company, Macks Solicitors, px Group, Glanbia Nutritionals, Cool Blue and Erimus Insurance Brokers.

Along with Andy Preston, individual patrons are Nigel Williams, Ian Tracey, Mark Bolland, John McCullagh, Rob McLaughlin, Ali Miremadi, Steve Nichols, Barney Ord, Bill Scott, Simon Scotchbrook and the Sizer Family.

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