Preston North End Community and Education Trust NCS Officer Bradley North is inspiring participants on the National Citizen Service programme by opening up about his own personal experiences, and in turn empowering other disability participants.
Bradley, 25, has been disabled for most of his life, having been diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a form of bone cancer – at 11-years-old, with the cancer returning on two further occasions.
The cancer forced him to have his tibia, fibia and full knee and kneecap taken out and replaced with a prosthesis – a metal bone – which frequently became infected due to its close proximity to the skin and his knee.
With little function or flexion in his leg, he was forced to use crutches to walk for much of time, before choosing to have his leg amputated two years ago and replaced with a prosthetic leg.
With that having enhanced his quality of life, Bradley maintains a positive outlook every day, and having recently taken on his role with the Trust in October, he is looking to utilise the opportunity to raise awareness of all disabilities through the NCS programme.
“I take every day as it comes,” he said. “From what I’ve been through, I actually find it a pleasure to come to work with the radio on in the morning.
“Having a disability, everyone with any type of disability knows that you can have your down days and things can be difficult, but it is just about having that positive outlook.
“Before, when I was using crutches, I couldn’t participate in sport – I love sport, I love football, I love everything. Since I’ve got this leg, I’ve been riding bikes, playing football, I’ve played amputee football, boxing – it’s been a new lease of life.
“The opportunity came up to work at Preston North End Community and Education Trust and luckily I got the job. Being in this industry proves that no matter what you put your mind to or what you’ve been through, if you want to do something, you can achieve it.”
As part of the NCS programme – a government-backed initiative for 15 to 17-year-olds to build their confidence, independence and life skills – Bradley has been delivering disability awareness workshops for multiple classes at Preston’s College, including for groups of students with special educational needs.
“You go into a room and there are people with all types of disability – my disability is visible,” Bradley added. “We have been delivering to a group with learning disabilities and just by me speaking about my personal experiences, it opens them up to speak about theirs.
“One of the teachers told me they loved it and that it’s given them a lot more vision and how to go about their days and understand their needs, which has been really good, and I’ve loved speaking to them and delivering the disability awareness talk because it’s close to home with that group.
“For me to be able to encourage other people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities, it’s something I take great pride in that I can deliver these workshops and hopefully can get people on the NCS programme, whether they have a disability or not.
“There might be some things I can’t do, but we’ll focus on the things we can do, and anyone should be able to get involved which is what we’re trying to promote.”
As well as working with the special educational needs groups at Preston’s College, PNECET offers a number of sessions to support pan-disability participants.
The PL Kicks programme offers free football sessions around Preston for eight to 18-year-olds with all disability participants welcome.
Meanwhile, the Every Player Counts programme in partnership with the Sir Tom Finney Preston Soccer Centre provides additional free sessions specifically for disability participants, with an adult’s session on a Friday evening and a junior’s session on a Saturday morning.
The Trust is also set to launch new disability programmes in the new year, with a para-football talent hub for disability players, and an FA project B1 for visually impaired players both set to start – alongside existing sessions – as soon as circumstances allow.