During her gap year Ellie Simpson, who has cerebral palsy, started to feel socially isolated. Motivated to create opportunities for other young disabled people Ellie set up her charity, CP Teens UK, and got involved with sport.
In 2013 Ellie Simpson finished secondary school, but like many young people her age decided to take a gap year. As her friends left home to attend university, Ellie felt increasingly secluded.
Ellie is not alone in feeling disconnected, half of disabled people say they feel lonely with one in four saying they feel lonely every day.
Determined to find opportunities and meet new people, Ellie created a Twitter account aimed at connecting teenagers with cerebral palsy and similar disabilities.
“It wasn’t just for me but for other people like me,” stresses Ellie. “I thought I must not be the only one out there in this situation.”
Aft er gaining more than 200 followers overnight, Ellie knew she was onto something big, she says: “When you’re at home it’s easy to think there’s no one out there, but once you realise there are people your life opens up.”
The account’s reach continued to grow and CP Teens UK was born: a group of likeminded young disabled people looking to connect. “I just found there was no opportunities out there for people with physical disabilities,” explains Ellie. “I went online and I couldn’t find any support groups so I thought I would set up my own.”
Two years after the charity’s inception Ellie decided to hold the first CP Teens UK event, the reaction was overwhelming, she remembers: “I see people coming to the events for the first ti me and I recognise the relief on their faces, they’re thinking ‘oh wow, there’s other people like me’.”
While Ellie ran the charity, she studied Sports Development with Coaching at Sheffield Hallam University. “It was hard, but because I really enjoyed both my degree and the charity it never seemed too much,” she recalls.
Ellie’s love for sport influenced her university choice, and her degree pushed her to get to the top of her sport: RaceRunning. Using three-wheeled frames for support, RaceRunning allows people with impaired balance to compete in running events.
With hopes of getting more people involved in the sport, Ellie set up England’s first RaceRunning club and went on to win multiple medals.
Now, Ellie is a young sporting ambassador for Cerebral Palsy Sport, she says: “To be an ambassador and the face of RaceRunning is amazing.
“I can remember looking at other people in this position and being like wow, so it feels a bit weird to be that person.”
As the charity and Ellie’s ambitions grow, she plans to host events for young people with cerebral palsy across the UK throughout 2019. We can’t wait to see what she does next.
Visit www.cpteensuk.org to learn more about the charity and Ellie’s story.