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2134. Stephanie Wheen

Stephanie Wheen, from Bristol, is a physiotherapist who set up her charity ‘Gympanzees’ to help young people with disabilities access leisure facilities and benefit from gymnastics.

Stephanie has brought together her experience of working with children and young people with disabilities for over 20 years, with her passion for facilitating exercise for people with a disability. This inspired her to establish the charity and provide an inclusive space for disabled young people to exercise in the community, in a physical and sensory environment that suits them, as well as an outdoor playground and a sociable café. Stephanie runs yearly challenges to raise money for the centre,  including charity balls and has also run therapy webinars and a pop-up equipment lending library.

Running since 2016 through pop-up sessions across Bristol that have attracted over 21000 visitors over the 130 days that they have been open, Stephanie will be launching their capital campaign this autumn to build the UK’s first disability-specific play and leisure facility for children, which will include exercise studios, therapy rooms, and 10 different activity rooms and halls. 

Congratulating Stephanie on her award, Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, said:

“Stephanie truly deserves this latest national award. It is further testament to her work supporting Disabled children and young people, also creating an accessible space for carers and lending library of specialist equipment and toys.

“‘Gympanzees’ have been running pop-up sessions in and around Bristol over the school holidays since 2016. During this time they’ve attracted an amazing 21,000 visitors, while continuing to work to find and fund a permanent home.”

Jack Lopresti, Stephanie’s local MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke, said:

“Stephanie embodies the very spirit of community that we cherish across our area. It is my privilege to celebrate her tireless efforts in helping young people with disabilities access leisure facilities and benefit from ‘Gympanzees.’

“Congratulations on this well-deserved Points of Light award.”

Stephanie said:

“What a great surprise and honour to receive this recognition from the Prime Minister. Running ‘Gympanzees’ doesn’t feel like work and the staff, volunteers and families we support make it the great organisation that it is. I feel very lucky to be in this position. This award is a lovely and very welcome cherry on top!”

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The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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