Rising Havant basketball star who lost the use of her arm and leg after a seizure gets new 'lease of life' after charity funds wheelchair

AN AMBITIOUS basketball player from Havant has been given a new lease of life after a charity helped her fund a custom-made wheelchair.

Wednesday, 12th June 2019, 5:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th June 2019, 5:48 pm
Basketball player Bobbi Clarke in her new customised wheelchair with Tony Bernard, founder of the Steve Bernard Foundation

Bobbi Clarke, a student at the University of Chichester, grew up loving football and was an aspiring boxer before suffering a seizure last year which left her unable to move her right arm and leg.

The 24-year-old, who plays for Littlehampton Tornadoes wheelchair basketball club, found that movement in her right arm came back but never did in the leg – and doctors are unsure as to whether it will ever come back.

After trying out wheelchair basketball at university, Bobbi and her friends started to raise money for a wheelchair that would enable her to excel at the sport.

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Final-year student Bobbi, who is training to become a primary school teacher, said she struggled to pick up the sport at first, and considered giving up after her very first session.

However, Bobbi said: ‘I carried on and ended up falling in love with it.

‘I managed to raise about £2,000 myself and then I got a call from the Steve Bernard Foundation to say they would match the funding. The foundation has been amazing.

‘I spent my entire life playing sport so it has been hard not being able to do what I love. I’m so grateful to the Steve Bernard Foundation and can’t wait to start using the new chair in competitive games.’

The custom-made PER4MAX wheelchair, which cost more than £4,000 and took three months to build, will help Bobbi compete with the league’s best wheelchair basketball players, with a faster profile and extendable height.

Bobbi added: ‘Sport literally gets me through life, if I’m annoyed or angry I would just go out for a run and now with the wheelchair I have a new lease of life.

‘Basketball wheelchair has given me an opportunity to be active again, helping my physical and mental health enormously. I am really enjoying training with the team and would be lost without it.’

The Steve Bernard Foundation, which is based in Bournemouth, was created and named in honour of the University of Chichester student who tragically died in a car crash in 2005.

The charity raises money for community sport projects across the south coast, often through extreme activities, and has recently celebrated reaching a milestone £400,000 target.

Charity founder Tony Bernard, who was given an honorary degree by the University in 2016 on behalf of his son, pledged to continue raising money for people in need. He said: ‘It’s very emotional every time we help someone because we think of Stevie.

‘When we lost him in 2005 we were just going to help a few people to buy a few things. We’ve now supported more than 500 projects across 62 sports – and never thought we would reach £400,000.

‘Bobbi is a great example of how playing a sport – or in her case many sports – can have such a big impact on people’s lives. I can see her going all the way to the top of her game.’

Jack Greenwood, president of the students’ union at Chichester, said: ‘We have a strong connection with the Steve Bernard Foundation, which is very close to our hearts, so it’s a privilege to work with a charity which does so much for people in our area.

‘We are here to make a difference in our students’ lives, and it’s great that our community has rallied together to make Bobbi so happy. She has a bright future in sport ahead of her.’

For more about the Steve Bernard Foundation, and how it helps community sport projects across the south coast, go to www.stevebernardfoundation.com.