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Children in Need funds inclusive Basketball club

Kai Frisby
Kai Frisby Image credit: bbc.co.uk

A basketball club funded by BBC Children in Need is helping disabled youngsters boost their confidence and interaction skills.

Kai Frisby (pictured above) is a regular at Aberystwyth Wheelchair Basketball, a project which, in his words, has been “life changing”.

The 16-year-old from Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, was born with cerebral palsy, growing up he “really struggled” in social environments. But the local club has helped boost his confidence.

Frisby joined the local Basketball team when he was seven with his dad and 12-year-old sister where they participated in games formed of disabled and non-disabled players.

"I've been really lucky to be able to find who I really am and been able to experience all these things and that was the main reason for me for me to get involved because there are a lot of kids out there who haven't had that chance," he told BBC News.

"Given my circumstances I came in, not really exercising, I had low self-esteem and not really talking to anyone and I met this whole community that I didn't know existed up until that point and they just welcomed me into the family and showed me that despite being in a chair it is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me.

"It gives me a chance to see someone eye to eye, as before I was looking at someone's stomach.

"It is a great chance to see peers at the same level as someone who was always at a disadvantage in physical activities like school PE lessons."

Thanks to the club Frisby  "made friendships here that are going to last a lifetime" which has given him a positive attitude living with his disability and interacting with others.

"Learning to socialise with other people, the communication skills you learn in basketball are vital for team success but really applicable in life because now I am not afraid to go have a conversation with people at the risk of them judging me for my disability,” Frisby said.

"I'm not afraid of that any more."

He narrowly missed out qualifying for the Commonwealth Games, but Frisby is determined to be picked in the foreseeable future after representing Wales three times.

"After playing in the Welsh vest for the first time I thought I might as well try and keep it going," he said.

"You just get an immense sense of pride and you've got home crowds cheering you on.

"I think that is the best thing about Wales we are a small country but we get the best support and you always know when Wales are in the house."

Frisby was one of the riders to be chosen for this year's Rickshaw Relay in support of BBC Children in Need, it was the perfect opportunity for him to give something back to the charity which gave him a new leash of life.

"It was an absolutely unforgettable experience," he said.

"We had a fantastic team and can't thank them enough for everything they did and it was really nice to cycle through my home town for 12 miles in the areas I have grown up in and it was great to see overwhelming support for the challenge and all the people who came out cheering you on and donating."

Leading the riders was TV presenter Matt Baker, who Frisby calls a “lovely chap”.

"It was effectively a two-hour chat with Matt Baker - as I like to call it, it was having a lot of fun for two-and-a-half hours" recalled Frisby.

Returning the compliment Baker said: “(Kai) has never let the fact that he is in a wheelchair hold him back from doing anything.

"Even when he turned up at school and it wasn't as accessible as it could be, that didn't hold him back and he influenced his school to make changes so it would be accessible for those with disabilities.

"He spends his spare time doing so many things to benefit other people. He really is a remarkable teenager and it was an absolute pleasure to ride alongside him during the challenge.

"It was amazing to visit the project that's supported him - Aberystwyth Wheelchair Basketball and just seeing so many of his friends, family and the community of Aberystwyth come out to cheer him on as he took on this remarkable challenge was really inspiring."

Frisby was nominated for the ride by head coach of  Aberystwyth Wheelchair Basketball, Lee Coulson.

"We knew he was going to smash it and he went out there and he did the job, but he was very humble with the whole experience," Coulson said.

"He just wanted to give his thanks back to the club and to Children In Need and he went out there and he did just that."

Coulson went on to thank BBC Children in Need saying the club “wouldn’t be where it is today” without the charity’s support.

"Aberystwyth Basketball Club is an inclusive sports club so we invite everybody along and nobody is excluded," said Coulson.

"What we try and do in the club is made sure that it's a fun place, but also they learn something, those important life skills that they need.

"The social side of the club is one of the most important things that we focus on: building relationships, making friends but learning about discipline, respect things that you'd need to take forward in life to help them move forward when they leave the club.

"Whether it's now or in 10 or 20 years' time, we want people to come out and have a go and learn what it is to be inclusive and looking down the line have a senior team in the league - but nothing too serious.

"It's got to be about the enjoyment of the game."

BBC Children in Need is on BBC One tonight, Friday 18 November at 7pm, available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.