Dan has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a condition which causes muscles to weaken over a person’s lifetime. When he was 10-years-old, Dan became a full-time wheelchair user and experienced deterioration of the upper limbs and decreased heart and lung function.

Daniel was diagnosed at the age of four. As he lost more and more muscle function, he became frustrated and withdrawn as he realised he couldn’t do the same things his peers could do. His self-confidence took a blow when his friends’ parents stopped inviting him to parties as they thought he couldn’t do as much as the other children.

Sam said:

This had a hugely detrimental effect on his self-confidence and his feelings about how others perceived him. He began to withdraw into himself and he was less outgoing. He decided that people weren’t interested in him. This, along with the lack of accessibility in school that we had to fight to change, all led to depression and anxiety.

Desperate to help my son feel better, happier, and accepted, I reached out in a Facebook forum for Duchenne families. Someone suggested we come along to a wheelchair football club that they ran, and we never looked back.

When he was 11, Dan started playing wheelchair football, getting the chance to meet other disabled people of different ages and genders. He was finally fully included in the sport, which he loves.

The family came to Variety for help funding a Strikeforce wheelchair, a specialised sport chair which is set up to meet all of Dan’s needs. Having the right equipment improved Dan’s game and he progressed into the club’s first team and played in the WFA Premiership.

After being excluded and made to feel unwanted and inferior, Dan’s progress in wheelchair football has made him feel included and seen, and he is able to feel proud of his achievements. This inclusive environment, along with anxiety medication, has had a huge positive impact on his mental health and his anxiety no longer impacts too much on his daily life.

Sam said:

I would very much like a lot more awareness of disabilities and the impact on the disabled person to be taught in schools. Awareness of others’ struggles is key to defeating ignorance. Parents who decide to leave out a disabled child as they think they are being kind, are in fact discriminating in the most dreadful way and teaching discrimination to others. This is not OK!

Daniel would like people to actually see HIM and not just a boy in a wheelchair who is in their way. He would like for people to be more tolerant and thoughtful when parking cars and in shops, etc.

We as a family would like to thank Variety for the ongoing support they provide and for allowing Daniel to open his world up and appreciate that he deserves to play sport with his peers, just as every able-bodied person can.