Saffron Walden: Meet our inspirational torchbearers for the Paralympic Games

THREE inspiring people will be among the 580 who have been accepted to carry the Paralympic torch at the end of the month. The flame will be travelling along an 87-mile route as part of a 24-hour relay that starts at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire and finishes at the Olympic Park in London.

• Geraldine Cowell, of Ickleton Road, Elmdon, is a tireless fundraiser and volunteer.

“When I got the confirmation email I just couldn’t believe that someone thought I was worthy enough to do it,” she said. “It’s the most amazing opportunity - a once in a lifetime experience. I’m really looking forward to it.”

On hearing that she’d being given a place, the first thing she did was call her mum, Vanessa, to share the good news.

Geraldine, 24, was nominated by Vanessa earlier this year who cited the long list of good work her daughter does in the community.

Her charity, volunteer and fundraising accolades include being a fundraiser for The Meningitis Trust, she is an Autistic Ambassador, and is also the youngest district commissioner for the Rainbows, Brownies and Guides in the Saffron Walden area.

If that wasn’t enough to fill her week, Geraldine also is a volunteer for Support 4 Sight and has recently been an Essex Ambassador for the Olympic Games.

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Geraldine will be part of a five-man team carrying the torch on August 29 at the Lea Valley Ice Centre.

• Graeme Whippy as won awards for his work in making the work place and IT more accessible for people of all abilities. The father-of-four from Great Sampford says it is “fantastic” to be nominated and hopes the upcoming games will be a real sea-change in people’s attitudes towards the Paralympics and people with disabilities in general.

“It doesn’t feel real at the moment,” he told the Reporter. “It is a tremendous honour. This is going to be the biggest Paralympics ever and is going to bring into the public’s conscious that, first and foremost, we are looking at superb athletes.”

Graeme says the games is just part of a “cultural journey that we are on when it comes to the inclusion of disabilities in our everyday lives”, and by making it more obvious, it will become more acceptable, and then people can overcome it and achieve their life’s goals.

He is taking part in the final leg of the relay that shall see the Olympic Torch delivered to the Olympic park.

• Saffron Walden resident Paul Atkins will be carrying the flame in Creekside, Greenwich.

Paul is the Resource Centre and volunteer manager at Support 4 Sight’s base on George Street. He was nominated by work colleagues in recognition for all the work he does for the charity and in promoting visual awareness issues.

“This is one of the highlights of my life,” said Paul. “I’d like to thank Support 4 Sight for nominating me and giving me the opportunity to take part.”

He will be doing his part with his guide dog Nellie.