Next week, four London 2012 Games Makers who helped athletes from disadvantaged nations over the summer, will launch a charity to provide competitors around the globe with the basic kit they need.
Launching just six months on from the Paralympic Games closing ceremony, Kit Us Out aims to provide essential training and competition kit for Paralympic athletes who don’t have sponsors and can’t afford even the most basic equipment.
Says Kit Us Out Founder Alex Mitchell, “This is not about providing prosthetic limbs or high tech sporting equipment. We’re talking about running shoes for people who would otherwise train and even compete bare feet or in shoes of the wrong size, or getting goggles to protect swimmers’ eyes. It’s simple stuff that can make a huge difference.”
In six short months Kit Us Out has gained support from organisations such as Paralympics GB and the International Paralympic Committee, as well as some of the shining stars of London 2012.
Dame Sarah Storey says, “Kit Us Out is an inspired idea. The charity is looking to even up the playing field in equipment terms throughout the world of para-sport.
“The gap between the most fortunate and least fortunate athletes is even greater in the world of para-sport and not every athlete who competed in London 2012 and Paralympic Games before that was as well supported and in such an established national programme as we are here in the UK.
“I know the work of this charity will be very positively received in the countries where support is being given and look forward to seeing their work progress.”
Ellie Simmonds OBE says, “Another impressive legacy from London 2012! Part of performing to your best is feeling confident and having the right basic equipment is essential. Paralympians have little or no support in a lot of countries and the more equal the playing field for every one, the better.”
Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE says: “We often take for granted that any athlete competing at the highest level of their sport will have the best equipment that they need. However, this is not the case for some athletes with a disability who compete for emerging nations and may arrive at a major event ill-prepared and with the most basic of equipment and funding.
“Kit Us Out recognises that problem and even in its earliest development at the London 2012 Paralympics, managed to provide kit for 60 athletes from 16 nations. Not state-of –the-art equipment, but the most basic – running shoes, spikes, wheelchair spare parts, to ensure that as many athletes as possible could compete on a par with their more affluent competitors.
“Kit Us Out embraces the vision of legacy that Lord Coe gave to the IOC in Singapore many years ago, and I am very happy to support their work.”
Alex Mitchell identified the need for provision for worldclass athletes when he came across two amputee sprinters from the Ivory Coast who did not have any spikes but had come to compete in London 2012 Paralympic Games. He bought them each a pair but as word spread among the volunteers, more and more instances of athletes needing equipment came to the fore.
Fellow Games Makers, Tariq Kazi, Paul Johnson and Dermot Keaney offered their support and together they helped athletes from 14 different nations, including Burkina Faso, Honduras, Laos, Lesotho, Namibia, Niger, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
Members of Team GB gifted equipment, as did other European squads such as Spain and Sweden. Such was the groundswell of support that the four decided to set up a formal charity that could help deal with the major problem of inadequate equipment they had seen first hand.
Continues Alex, “We see this as a legacy from the UK to the rest of the world. The support has been incredible – I’ve had a stack of cheques that people have donated under the mattress for months while we have dealt with the formalities around setting up a charity! It really shows the positive effect London 2012 had on people in this country.”
Kit Us Out will work with developing countries around the world to create strategic partnerships that will identify athletes in need and get the kit to them. All the money donated will be used directly to buy the key equipment needed, which will then be passed directly to the athletes.
Continues Alex, “As well as reaching out to athletes abroad, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games will be one of the immediate focuses for Kit Us Out. We are hoping to work with the Glasgow 2014 team and give para-sports athletes a fair chance to compete at their best when they come to the UK.”
Kit Us Out will be looking for donations from the public through the website which will be live shortly: www.kitusout.org. Follow Kit Us Out on Twitter & Facebook for updates over the launch period.
Kit Us Out is also looking for retailers to get in touch to offer discounts off of equipment and/or donations of kit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continues Alex, “Thanks to everyone who has got us to this point! We have been overwhelmed by the support we’ve had and are excited to start raising funds and helping athletes from developing nations around the world.”