Gym Giants With Life-Changing Conditions Become Community Heroes

Two Ability Bow gym members - one with a very severe form of obstructive sleep apnoea and which can make his heart stop beating while asleep and another member with multiple myeloma bone marrow cancer respectively - are celebrating after each gaining a community hero award at the Tower Hamlets International Day of Persons with Disabilities yesterday.   

Richard Palmer and Albie Ollivierre were presented the awards in front of more than 100 people at the Ecology Pavilion, Mile End Park on Monday 3 December 2018, where they were recognised for their contribution to the local community this year and as members of our exercise rehabilitation gymnasium.   

Recognising Richard

Richard, 54, from Bethnal Green, has already transferred the knowledge he’s developed having been diagnosed with an autism spectrum condition in 2016 - which can include social and behavioural difficulties - this year, after being named Trainer of the Year in September for his outstanding contribution to the Tower Hamlets Autism Service and Community Healthcare Trust. 

After being selected for his Trainer of the Year award, Richard was also nominated by our specialist disabilities and long-term health conditions therapy service, Ability Bow, for the Tower Hamlets community hero award, for his vital grant funding research for the organisation; as well as his achievement in losing 2 stone in weight since joining our gym last year.   

Speaking after his latest award win this month, Richard said: “I’m really honoured to have been nominated and awarded the prizes I’ve received this year and feel really humbled, as there are people who I believe do far more than I do.   

“To win two awards this year is incredible and if it wasn’t for the emotional confidence and physical skills I’ve developed at Ability Bow, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I have in a gym setting.”   

Richard, who has been living with his life-long severe sleep apnoea - whereby his airways often become blocked while asleep - says being part of Ability Bow - which helps 400 disabled people into exercise each year within its third-floor setting at St Paul’s Church, St Stephen’s Road in Bow - enables him and his own physical and mental health conditions to become better understood.   

“Practically, being at Ability Bow has allowed me to manage my weight far better and become more active, as well as really helping me to develop my social skills and interact with a wide range of people, as the community feel and closeness with everyone here including the staff, empowers me immensely,” Richard adds.   

Albie's Achievements

Living with multiple myeloma cancer, Albie Ollivierre, 57 from Bow, has also enjoyed an impressive year as part of our gym. 

Raising more than £2,500 in the past five years since fundraising for our service through the annual 5k in the Big Fun Run, Arsenal Football Club fan and former dancer and choreographer Albie - who has taught at venues including Sadler's Wells and the Royal Opera House - says that thanks to his long-term one-to-one exercise support at Ability Bow and home physiotherapy, he's been able to move from a wheelchair to walking again, after spending seven-and-a-half months in hospital following his diagnosis. 

Albie says: "I doubt I’d even be here if it wasn’t for Ability Bow’s trainers. 

"Sometimes I need a stick to aid walking after hospital treatment - but being able to walk again unaided if I want to is amazing.

“Many people feel lost and isolated when diagnosed with cancer, but this gym removes that feeling and gives you hope confidence to feel empowered. It’s been life-changing.”

Victoria Kent, Ability Bow Director and Founder, said: “Richard and Albie show what can be done when you have a disability; which is what we always try to promote at Ability Bow and within the wider community.   

“Richard’s two award wins this year and Albie's fantastic fundraising are fantastic and this only goes to outline how far he and our members are going to making more active and healthier lives for themselves and, to give back to the Tower Hamlets area; we’re so proud!”   

Presented their community hero awards at the Tower Hamlets International Day of Persons with Disabilities - run in partnership by health and social care services provider, Apasen and London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council - Richard and Albie were two of many attendees who were able to enjoy music, dance and food within the all-inclusive event, which forms a local equivalent of the worldwide disability celebration on 3 December.

Mahmud Hasan, CEO of Apasen said: “We’re delighted all of the borough’s community heroes - including Richard and Albie at Ability Bow - have been recognised for their outstanding efforts in making people with disabilities visible in Tower Hamlets. “