Rugby ‘I stood for half an hour the other day’: the rugby charity helping kids like Freddie find their feet

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Rugby Telegraph Christmas charity appeal
Freddie Farmer, whose Foundation has been supported by Wooden Spoon, one of the Telegraph’s Christmas charities

Credit:
Christopher Pledger

Former Scotland International rugby player Craig Chalmers and Freddie Farmer are swapping tales of physiotherapy sessions. The key to staving off boredom, they both agree, is making the experience fun.

When recovering from a knee injury, Chalmers used to balance on a wobble board and throw a physio ball against the wall. Every time he dropped the ball it was a wicket. Ten wickets and he was out. 

“It’s unreal what a difference it makes when you make a game of it,” agrees Freddie. “Two hours have gone by, suddenly, and I think, ‘I can go home!’” 

Chalmers may have 60 caps for Scotland, and been part of the British Lions, but 15-year-old Freddie has the edge when it comes to hours clocked up in the hands of physios. 

Born prematurely at 28 weeks, weighing 2lbs 12oz, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at eight months. Caused by a problem with the brain that occurs before, during, or soon ­after birth, cerebral palsy is the name for a group of lifelong conditions that affect movement and co-ordination. 

Freddie is quadriplegic, which means his cerebral palsy affects him all over. Intensive physio was essential to build the neural pathways needed to improve his mobility.

His mum, Deanne Catchesides, says, ­matter-of-factly: “Our options were either to leave him in a chair for the rest of his life or teach him what his body could do.” But the closest well-equipped physiotherapy centre was 100 miles away from the Farmers’ family home in Bromley, south-east London. 

While Freddie made great progress, travelling to Oxford three times a year for two weeks at a time was costly, time-consuming and a strain on the family. It soon became clear that a centre nearer home would make a huge difference – and not just to their family. 

Freddie with mum Deanne and former rugby player Craig Chalmers

Credit:
Christopher Pledger

So, in 2011, Deanne and her husband, Dean, set up the Freddie Farmer ­Foundation and launched the “Ready, Freddie, GO!” campaign to raise the £250,000 needed to set up a specialised physiotherapy centre for Freddie and children like him.

It was then that Freddie’s grand­father, a rugby fan, suggested they contact their local Wooden Spoon to help. The rugby-based children’s charity funds life-changing projects across the UK and Ireland to support children and young people with disabilities or those facing disadvantage. It is one of three charities supported by

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