Who we work with: Tate
Tate Willis is a regular at Albion in the Community’s (AITC) football sessions for people with a disability. She is also the most recent recipient of the Albion in the Community Award.
A fantastic example of what individuals can achieve when given a chance and the right support, Tate, however, had previously been forced to twice change school as a result of bullying – leaving her facing a 60-mile round trip to and from school each day.
Her father Alex Willis explained the extreme toll that the bullying had taken on not only Tate, but the entire family. “It is heart-breaking,” he said. “All kids want to be involved and have fun and to be singled out for having a disability is horrible.
“She really stands up to it as much as she can and ignores things, but eventually it takes its toll.
“As a parent it is devastating. You are not just dealing with bullies, you are dealing with ignorance.”
Things began to change for Tate when she started attending sessions with AITC. She had spent weeks telling her family that all she wanted for her birthday was a football team to play for. With her birthday fast-approaching, her parents were facing the prospect of having to tell their little girl they hadn’t been able to find her one. And then a call from AITC changed everything.
Mr Willis explained: “Just before her birthday we got a call asking if she would like to be part of a football team at Albion in the Community. We will never forget that day that has now changed our little girl’s world.
“Just to see the smile on Tate’s face was priceless and is a moment that will stay with us forever.”
Having been given the opportunity to play the sport she loves, Tate is thriving. Not only does she attend AITC’s junior amputee session, but she also goes to a fortnightly inclusive session in Eastbourne and is part of a talent programme that provides expert coaching to promising young players with a disability. Brighton & Hove Albion fans voted for her to win the Albion in the Community Award at the end of the 2017/18 season from a short-list of 11 AITC participants. And, of course, she now has a team to play.
“Tate is a different girl,” continued her dad. “It has given her confidence and a chance to shine.
“She now has things she really looks forward to. Rather than seeing her brother go off to football every week she is now going to football as well.
“It is incredible. You watch what Tate can achieve, but you also see what other people with a disability can achieve as well. It is so rewarding to see your child do the things she wants to do.”