Cameron Foster - the Wigan teenager starting a sporting legacy
PUBLISHED: 00:00 01 May 2013
A teenager from Hindley who suffered horrific injuries in a freak accident is giving disabled youngsters a sporting chance, as Paul Mackenzie reports
Last year’s Olympics Games promised to inspire a generation but one Wigan teenager was well ahead of Seb Coe when it came to creating a legacy. Cameron Foster has been inspiring young people to get involved in sport since he was seriously injured in a 40foot fall from a ski lift when he was just nine-years-old.
The youngster was on a school trip to the Alps when he fell onto compacted ice, breaking his left arm, dislocating both ankles and shattering his legs. But despite his horrific injuries, the Hindley Green County Primary School pupil was walking again within eight weeks and soon after he was back on his feet he organised a sponsored walk which raised £5,000.
That money was used to fund equipment for the disability sports boccia and table cricket in Wigan and was the first in series of fundraising events through which Cameron has so far raised over £30,000. Cameron, who turns 18 this month, has taken a year out of college to launch his own charitable foundation which aims to inspire disabled youngsters to play sports and develop talent for future Paralympic Games.
After being air-lifted to hospital in Italy where he underwent keyhole surgery, Cameron’s parents Sue and Howard flew out and were able to accompany their son home to Hindley. He spent some time in Wigan Infirmary and was in rehab for almost 12 months, but a year to the day after his accident, he was back on the slopes.
‘Before my accident I was very sporty,’ he said. ‘I was initially unable to take part in the sports I loved and it made me more aware of young disabled children around me and how difficult it must be for them to enjoy sport as I did.
‘While I was doing my physio I started to wonder if there some way I could use what had happened to me to help people. I did the sponsored walk – ten laps of Robin Park – and I got to see how the money was spent. It was a pretty good feeling to see young people playing sport and knowing that I had helped, and I’ve not stopped since then.
‘I was lucky not to have been more seriously injured and to have made a full recovery and I want to try to inspire other young people to make the most of their lives.’
Cameron’s accident happened in February 2005 and he was still recovering when the announcement was made that summer that London would host the 2012 Games. Cameron wrote to tell Seb Coe, who led the bid, about his fundraising efforts and Coe replied with a collection of signed memorabilia. And the Coe connection continued when Cameron was one of the first to be named as a torch bearer for the nationwide relay of the Olympic flame.
‘It is surreal how my life has gone since that accident,’ Cameron added. ‘I had an exam in the morning and was carrying the torch through Hindley in the afternoon, so I had to try to keep focussed. Then after the relay I did lots of events with the torch and people paying money to have their picture taken with me and the torch. That was really odd.
‘Raising money has become a massive part of my life and a real passion for me. I want to make sure there is a legacy from the Games. The number of people who were on the streets for the torch relay, and the crowds at the Paralympics show what interest there is, but now we have to build on that.’
His fundraising events so far have included everything from 140ft abseils to appearing in a pantomime and he is the co-founder of the charity They are Africa which provides funding and equipment for poverty stricken youngsters in Africa to go to university.
Since he was 14 he has volunteered as a coach with local football and cricket clubs and he is hoping to volunteer at this year’s ICC Champions Trophy and at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 with the charity Street Child World Cup to help homeless children be engaged in football.
Cameron, who was also an ambassador for Coca-Cola in the run up to the Games, has won a trophy cabinet full of awards for his fundraising efforts including a gold Blue Peter Badge, the British Red Cross Humanitarian Citizen of the year award, The Diana Award and the Rotary International Young Citizen of the year.
The former Westleigh High School Head Boy had planned to launch the Cameron Foster Foundation with a lavish ball in April, but the date clashed with Wigan Athletic’s FA Cup semi-final and the event has now been re-scheduled for September.
‘The idea of the foundation is to fund equipment and facilities for young disabled people to get involved in sport. I would like to sponsor young athletes as well because it can be very difficult for them to be able to afford everything they need to be able to develop in their sport and to compete at events around the country. It will be a big task but I am looking forward to it.’
Mum Sue, a former under 21 international 800m runner who now works at Wigan Infirmary, said: ‘I am unbelievably proud of him. To be where he is now after what happened is incredible. And he has done it all himself – every penny he has raised, he has raised himself. He was even planning to not tell me about the foundation but just to invite me to the launch event, but he needed me to be one of the trustees for it.’
For more information go to www.CameronFoster.co.uk