Disabled Sheffield youngsters were encouraged to ‘follow their dreams’ when they received certificates from a war hero.
Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, from Doncaster, was invited to hand certificates to more than 80 youngsters with learning difficulties and disabilities.
The group have completed Indetravel courses in independent travel training – which helps young people develop the skills and confidence to use public transport to get to school, college or work placements.
Before the Sheffield Council-run project was launched in 2009, youngsters with autism, Down’s syndrome or other disabilities would have had to rely on minibuses or taxis to get out and about.
Lance Bombardier Parkinson, who lost both legs and suffered extensive brain damage in a bomb blast in Afghanistan in 2006, attended a ceremony at Sheffield Town Hall to present certificates to the youngsters who completed independent travel training in the past year.
Ben, who also played a part in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by carrying an Olympic torch and was made an MBE by the Queen in May, told the youngsters who attended: “I am very proud to have been invited to present these awards.
“I believe no-one should ever be allowed to tell you what you can and cannot achieve – only you can decide that.
“I try to prove that in everything I do and know that as award winners you have proved it too.
“Nothing makes you feel better or stronger than doing something no-one thought you could.”
Adam Khan, of Firth Park, Sheffield, was among the young people receiving his certificate from Ben and Coun Vickie Priestley, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield.
Thanks to the Indetravel team, Adam now travels to Bents Green Secondary School on his own.
The 13-year-old, who suffers from language and learning difficulties, said: “I’m proud of what I’ve achieved since working with the travel team at the council. When my teacher told me about it in the summer I wanted to try it straight away, because I wanted to be able to do things for myself.
“I didn’t like the minibus which came to get me every day, because it made me feel like a baby. I was a bit nervous at first, but now I’m really excited that I can get the bus every day. I feel really grown up now and think it’s changed my life forever.”
Shazia, Adam’s mum, said: “I think the Indetravel scheme has been life changing for Adam. As a parent, I can see he has matured significantly.
“His attitude is more positive and it’s fantastic to hear him say he believes he can achieve anything.
“He now says he thinks he can go to college and follow his dreams.”