In the 1970’s there was little on offer for disabled children who were isolated and had nowhere to go and have fun. In 1976 a young man, Colin Hassell, who was the Assistant Manager at the Guildford Sports Centre telephoned St Luke’s Hospital to speak to paediatrician Dr Helen Foley to see whether his sports centre could offer anything for local disabled children.
Together they set up free swimming classes for disabled children which became incredibly popular very quickly. Sometimes as many as 30 children attended the class and everyone was included; no one was ever turned away. This has remained our ethos and approach today and very much sets us apart.
In 1979 Guildford Adventurers was established and the charity worked hard to raise funds and identify a location on Stoke Park Guildford that remains our Guildford playcentre and Headquarters today. Gradually the service extended to offer a youth schemes and then in 2000 a scheme started in Epsom which lead to more and more play and youth schemes starting up in the community.
The charity grew in reputation and in 2001 the team reviewed the name and it was agreed that it should be rebranded as Disability Challengers to remind people that the service was available for children beyond Guildford. In 2013 we rebranded again, and evolved our name simply to ‘Challengers’ to better reflect our aim to be fully inclusive. Challengers now meets approximately 1400 disabled children and young people across all of the schemes.
In 2015 we were delighted to hear that Helen Foley had been awarded an MBE for her part in establishing life changing opportunities for so many children and young people.