Communities

How Stoke City gave Mark his pride back

25 Dec 2017

Stoke City Community Trust and PL/BT Disability Fund has helped one man get active and contribute to community

As a boy, there was nothing to stop Stoke City fan Mark Barnett from playing football.

That was despite having Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a hyper-mobility condition that leads to regular dislocations.

"It wasn't really much of a problem when I was a child," he says.

"I used to play football with my mates. We used to climb over fences and have a kickaround."

But as he got older, Mark started to find it more difficult to keep active.

"I didn't really do anything," he says. "I would sit in the house all day doing nothing."

Mark was determined to find a purpose again and last year he began volunteering with Stoke City Community Trust on their Premier League/BT Disability programme.

"He was relatively shy at the start but what he was doing was fulfilling a really valuable role," explains Carl Bennett, the Trust's inclusion disability lead. "I recognised that he had so much more potential."

With the help of the Trust, Mark has rediscovered his confidence and has taken up a variety of roles over the last 12 months.

He has been elected as the disability representative on the Stoke City Supporters Council, which helped him become a turnstile supervisor at the stadium on a matchday.

Mark has also completed FA Level One and Coaching Disabled Footballers courses, allowing him to assist the Trust as it grows its PL/BT Disability Fund programme.

"It's all because the Community Trust gave me the boost that I needed," he says. "I had no social life and since volunteering, it's chaotic now.

"With being Stoke City, and being a local lad, I'm proud to wear the badge, I love putting the kit on and walking around with the ID. I am very proud."

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