Inspirational Writer Crowned Winner Of Disability Competition

Law Firm Joins Forces With KIDS Charity To Raise Awareness Of Living With Disability

22.05.2014

Over 80 stories and poems penned by inspirational people whose lives have been affected in some way by disabilities have flooded in from all across the UK for a national writing competition led by Irwin Mitchell and charity KIDS.

Specialist lawyers at national law firm Irwin Mitchell teamed up with leading disabled children’s charity KIDS to launch a writing competition on World Book Day to encourage people to share their experiences of disability.

Both Irwin Mitchell and KIDS work on a daily basis with families whose lives are affected by disability and the aim of the competition is to encourage both disabled and non-disabled children and adults to share their personal experiences by telling stories.

The 84 entries were distilled into a shortlist of 30 which were then scrutinised by a panel of expert judges including:

• Lucy Gannon, an award-winning British TV scriptwriter – author of ‘The Best Of Men’, which told the story of the first Paralympics Games
• Dr Emily Talbot, a Clinical Psychologist in Pediatric Neuropsychology
• Stuart Henderson, Personal Injury Managing Partner at Irwin Mitchell
• Caroline Stevens, CEO at KIDS.

Judging took place last week and Irwin Mitchell and KIDS are pleased to announce the following winners:

• 5 – 11 years Category
Winner - Lauren Gormley
Runners up – Leo Jolly, from Tranent, and Sophie Handyside, from County Durham

• 12 – 17 years Category
Winner – Rohan Collins
Runners up – Lucy Dalton, from Bolton, Jack Dalton, from Bolton and Christopher Finnes, from Sutton Coldfield

• Over 18s Category
Joint winners – Sara Meredith and Nicola McQuaid
Runner up – Helen Woollam, from Chichester

As the overall competition winner, 18-year-old Rohan Collins received an Amazon Kindle Fire e-reader and a £50 book voucher. The runners up each received a £25 book voucher. There will also be winner’s celebration event in June at Shakespeare’s Globe on the Southbank in London and the 30 shortlisted entries will be made into a book to be sold to raise money for KIDS.

Expert Opinion
My fellow judges and I were overwhelmed by the stories and poems entered by some truly inspirational people. The entries were beautifully written and gave an astonishing insight to their experiences with either living with a disability or caring for a loved one who is disabled.

“The competition has been an eye-opening experience with so many honest, emotive and insightful stories from people highlighting the struggles that people with disability face on a day-to-day basis.

“Having a disability should not stop people from having ambitions and aspirations, whether you are managing a condition you are born with or your disability is something that has developed because of an injury or illness or through an accident. We wanted this competition to highlight the support and services that are available for families.”
Stuart Henderson, Partner

KIDS was established in 1970 by John Mulcahy, a teacher who was concerned about the development of a disabled child in one of his classes. John went on to set up KIDS to encourage parents, carers and schools to work together to enable disabled children and young people to develop their skills and abilities and to fulfill their potential, hopes and aspirations.

Caroline Stevens, Chief Executive at KIDS, said: “We have been amazed by the level of entries received from people all across the UK wanting to share their stories and experiences with us. Disability touches the lives of so many people and it has been fantastic to read so many positive personal accounts.

“Our aim was to encourage both disabled and non-disabled children and adults to share their personal experiences of disability, or of living with or caring for a disabled person to highlight the support and services on offer across the country.

 “Through the work we do with families all across the country, we see firsthand the challenges they face and our work supports disabled children and young people to gain independence, social skills and self confidence. All disabled children and young people have the right to fulfil their ambitions and we are committed to helping them to achieve this.”

WINNER’S STORY – 12 – 17 category and overall winner - Rohan Collins, from Nuneaton, West Midlands
Rohan, who suffers from high functional autism and a seizure disorder, overwhelmed all of the judges with her creative and expressive poem, described by one of the judges as “A wonderfully creative reflection of Rohan's journey - ending on the pure happiness that she experiences amongst the challenges she has faced.”

The talented writer who has just turned 18 said: “I love writing, especially poetry and I was excited when I saw the competition on Facebook so I thought I would give it a whirl.

“I couldn’t believe it when I found out I had won, I was so shocked. I thought the competition was a great idea to help people talk about living with a disability and being able to express it through my own words was really important to me.

“I am delighted and honoured to be chosen as the winner and I was amazed by the compliments given by all of the judges. I am so pleased I entered and I will definitely keep writing poetry.”

5 – 11 category – Lauren Gormley, 11, from Coventry, West Midlands
Lauren’s mum Nicola, 37, said: “Lauren loves to enter competitions; she entered the Turning the Page competition via Facebook when she saw it advertised. She is absolutely delighted to win her category as she has never won anything before.

“She suffers from disability herself and writing and entering competitions gives her the confidence to express herself so I thought it was a great idea.”

18+ category joint winner – Sara Meredith, 38 from Walsall, West Midlands
“I was really excited when I discovered that my entry had been selected as one of the winners. I loved the idea of being able to share my personal account of my experience with disability, as my daughter Olivia’s life has been affected by disability.

“I wanted to be able to show people that you have to look beyond the label of what disability is, how it can affect different people and that it does not define who a person is, so I thought this was the perfect way to express this by entering into the competition.”

18+ category joint winner – Nicola McQuaid, 49, from West Hampstead, London
“I was delighted when I found out that I had been selected as one of the winners. On the day I found out, my 11-year-old daughter Emily, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, had been very ill and it was a lovely surprise for my entry to be recognised by the judges.

“I decided to enter the competition as part of a support group that I am a member of, the Camden Special Parents Forum. We have been encouraging each other to write accounts of our experiences living with a child who has a disability to help consultants and social workers get a better understanding of how we are coping.