A Lancaster mother turned her son’s tears to a smile by organising football fun for the deaf.
Vicki Galt, 42 decided it was time to do something about her children’s opportunities to play football after her eldest son, 13-year-old James, who is profoundly deaf, came home one evening from an ability football training session in tears and feeling isolated.
She said, “James didn’t know anyone.
“They didn’t help him to really get involved and he never got picked for the team.
“I had done what I could with regards to deaf awareness training and getting support with coaching information through the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS), but it hurt that he didn’t feel involved.”
Having already set up the Lancaster and Morecambe Deaf Children Society (LaMDCS), Vicki’s solution was to kickstart Morecambe Deaf Friendly FC, a group where children could come together to play football as well as communicate and socialise in a deaf friendly environment.
At the first meeting, the youngsters were given a tour of Morecambe’s Globe Arena and later took part in a skills session with Deaf Great Britain Ladies player Jessica Everhurst.
Twenty-four children, aged five to 16, signed up for the first training session the following Friday.
From that point onwards Morecambe Deaf Friendly FC has continued to operate teams for under 12s and under 16s catering for four-year age brackets.
Despite the success, there was still something missing. They wanted to experience competitive football.
Playing competitively had proven to be difficult to organise because no organised league existed - only two national cup tournaments.
As a result Vicki decided to create and develop a mini-league for the North West.
Thirty children from across Morecambe, Lancaster, Salford and Bolton turned out for the sessions where they played five-a-side games in organised teams.
At the end of September 2013 the mini league was donated locations to host football events for deaf children by Premier League football clubs Everton and Manchester City. Vicki decided to call the sessions Deaf Friendly Football Festivals and her group Deaf Friendly Football Festivals North West (DeaFFF NW) was born.
On hand at the sessions were British Sign Language interpreters and role models from GB deaf sports to inspire the youngsters.
Eight future ‘football festivals’ have been arranged across the North West region beginning in September 2014.
The groups Vicki have organised have been the platform for several deaf youngsters to go on to further success.
Her oldest son James - a Morecambe and Manchester United supporter who dreams someday of playing for one of the teams - is currently playing at the North West Centre of Excellence.
Meanwhile, Vicki’s younger son Damian, 10, who is also severely deaf, will enter trials next year.
Adam Thomas, who joined Morecambe Deaf Friendly FC in its first season, is now a member of the GB Futsal team and several girls who have played for the club are now involved with the GB Deaf Girls Under 16s team.
Vicki now hopes DeaFFFF NW can offer more sports as part of their programme.
On May 28, between 10am and 2pm, the club will hold an indoor cricket session at Deafway, Brockholes, Preston attended by two England Deaf cricket players.
Deaf Awareness Week is running until May 25 as societies across the region and beyond campaign for deaf equality.