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Gold medal winner is backing Splash fund.

Byline: Alex Finnis Reporter alex.finnis@trinitymirror.com

PARALYMPIC swimming gold medallist Josef Craig made a splash in Newcastle city centre as he helped launch a new appeal to build a hydrotherapy pool for disabled children.

If anyone knows how much swimming can benefit disabled kids, it is Josef. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child, the now 17-year-old went on to win gold in the 400m freestyle S7 event at London 2012, before claiming two further golds and a silver at the World Championships in Montreal the following year.

Now, he is backing The Splash - the latest appeal from the Percy Hedley Foundation, aiming to raise PS1m to build a pool at their upper school.

Chairity employees, volunteers and pupils all joined the Jarrow swimming ace at Grey's Monument to kick off the fundraising process and raise awareness.

"Swimming definitely helped me when I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. I don't know how severe my disabilities would have got without it," said Josef.

"I think it's essential if you want to be able to control what's happening to your body. Hydrotherapy pools give these kids the chance to familiarise themselves with the water, get stronger and have fun."

Hydrotherapy pools are hotter than regular swimming pools - they are heated to around 34 degrees, and this, combined with the added bouyancy, provides huge benefits for disabled people.

The pool helps muscles relax, relieves pressure on joints, helps remove pain and allows people to build up strength in their limbs.

Percy Hedley's current hydrotherapy pool at the lower school is run down and no longer fit for use, and they are hoping this year-long appeal can get them a state-of-the-art pool, with 24 residential units alongside for the pupils and for respite.

Carol Harder, chief executive of the foundation, said: "This hydrotherapy pool is very important because a lot of our children have very sore and painful limbs and the warm water gives them freedom to move about and exercise. They're obviously very restricted when they're in their wheelchairs."

Sarah Turner is the finance director at the foundation, and thinks the pool can give children the opportunity to excel in sport, just like Josef has.

"They find it difficult to access sport normally, but this pool would give them the opportunity to get into it," she said. "It gives them a chance."

CAPTION(S):

Josef Craig at the launch of the Splash campaign to raise funds for the Percy Headly foundation. SIMON
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 4, 2014
Words:411
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