A wheelchair rugby and basketball starlet from Dunblane has told of the life-changing impact and opportunities she has enjoyed thanks to a Dundee sports club funded by The National Lottery.
In the touching video interview – the first in a series showcasing the impact of National Lottery funding on projects across Dundee, Angus, Fife and Perth and Kinross – Gemma Lumsdaine describes how access to sport transformed her confidence and led her to view her disability as a positive rather than negative.
Born 12 weeks prematurely, Gemma was diagnosed with cerebral palsy from a young age, which she admits made her youth very challenging and left her with low self-esteem. However, her introduction to sport through Dundee Dragons Wheelchair Sports Club has changed all that and she has never looked back – alongside playing sport at an international level, Gemma also coaches at a local level and was previously the Scotland under-19s Wheelchair Basketball assistant coach.
In a video thanking National Lottery players for supporting projects such as Dundee Dragons, Gemma said: “Before Dundee Dragons I didn’t have a lot of ambition and didn’t really see myself as fitting in. At my school I was the only person with a physical disability, so I really struggled with my mood and I was quite down. I struggled to accept myself and saw my disability as a negative thing.
“Sport has really given me something to aim towards. Dundee Dragons has changed my whole perspective and I wouldn’t have been able to get the opportunities I have without my disability so from having a negative perspective it’s completely changed everything for me. Through time and seeing other wheelchair users, what was possible for them and how independent they could be, I’ve developed my skills and got more involved.
“I’m now employed by Dundee Dragons so it’s not just given me opportunities on the court but off court skills as well which are invaluable really. It’s changed my life and I’m so grateful for what they’ve done.”
This year has been Gemma’s most memorable to date, crowned sportscotland 2018 Young Coach of the Year as well as being named Young Volunteer of the Year at the Dundee Sports Awards. However, she has even higher targets and ambitions for the years ahead.
Gemma added: “Last year I was selected for the GB Development Squad for wheelchair rugby. It prepares you to progress to into the GB Elite Team who compete at Paralympic level.”
Founded in 2013, initially as a wheelchair rugby league club, Dundee Dragons was awarded £8,000 of National Lottery funding through sportscotland which has allowed the club to expand to provide activities in basketball, tennis, badminton and curling – adding golf in 2019.
Kevin Rattray, Dundee Dragons Club Coordinator, said: “I think that the uniqueness of what we do is the level of diversity of what we offer and how we are driven to reach for new opportunities by our club members. We don’t focus on what people can’t do we focus on what people can do and support them throughout their time with us.
“For me the biggest achievements are enabling people like Gemma to strive to reach their sporting and personal potential, supporting people enabling them to move into further education or employment. Reducing isolation, removing depression, providing hope, giving their lives purpose. I can say without fear of contradiction that the club changes lives.”
More than 7,500 National Lottery grants have been invested into arts, heritage, sport and community projects in Dundee, Angus, Fife and Perth and Kinross since 1994.
To find out more visit the National Lottery Good Causes website or follow #ThanksTayYou on social media.