A shame, because there was a great deal of ‘good stuff’ at the Rotary District 1120 – ‘woops!’ I mean Rotary South East conference this weekend. But the star of the show was, and possibly ‘had-to-be’ Ade Adepitan – wheelchair basketball gold medallist for team Britain, t.v. presenter, and extremely good communicator.
OK, he was talking about a subject he knew pretty well – himself – and he told the story very well. Born in Nigeria, contracted polio aged two that affected both his legs, one totally; parents made decision to move to UK when he was three, insisted on him being in a mainstream (standard state school) school where they lived, Plaistow, East London, quite literally, ‘a hard schooling’. Ade (pronounced ‘adi’) gained the support of his school-mates as a ‘tryer’ especially in sports. Spotted by two physios with an ‘East End Project’ while being pushed on a sponsored supermarket trolley race who persuaded him to be involved in their programme. Thanks to that, Frank Bruno raised money to buy him a lightweight self-propelled wheelchair.
Of his first visit to one of the Stoke Mandeville ‘Para-Olympics’ in the early days of paraplegic sport, and his vision at seeing high-end wheelchair basketball which ignited his take-off into the sport; he showed us that it was anything but ‘vertical take-off’, and his refusals for the team nearly led to us losing a para-olympian. But it didn’t, he gritted his teeth, trained harder, completed in a scratch team in Cyprus that beat the favourites (the Germans – Ho, ho!). And the rest, is history, or at least on BBC video footage.
But it doesn’t end there! He has agreed to be a Rotary polio ambassador, and – thanks to Rotarian Christine Aktinson (RC West Wickham), who has persuaded him to work to publicise the polio endgame, as we should call it. I hope to see him as a Rotarian himself, more than that, with his presentation skills – incidentally, (on Saturday evening after Eastbourne he won ‘TV Presenter of the Year’ award at the MV Awards ceremony in London – yes folks, that evening! It’s a tough life being a celeb.) promoting Rotary to his age-group and British professionals of African and Caribbean ethnicity. Diversity is something Rotary – all over the UK, so badly needs more of!
And oh yes! I almost forgot, not only did he refuse his fee – but gave it to the Foundation Rotary fund, Adi not only do you have my respect, but now, too, my admiration. He so richly deserved the standing ovation the hall gave him. I look forward to seeing more of him, especially as he is (1120ers), ours! *** FH 31.10.16
Caption: Ade Adepitan on stage at the Rotary South East conference on Saturday 29th. Oct. where he was one of the guest speakers. Adi moved the audience and donated his £1,500 appearance fee to the Rotary Foundation polio eradication fund.
(pic. by FH . R Dist. 1120 PI)