The Arsenal Foundation

Helping an Arsenal fan with dementia

Arsenal in the Community WeSwim

The Arsenal Foundation has helped to fund WeSwim, a charity that delivers swimming sessions for people with physical and learning disabilities. Linda O’Leary reveals how the sessions have helped her husband, John, who is no longer as active as he once was since being diagnosed with Posterior Cortical Atrophy.

“John and I have been married for 45 years and counting – I’m 68 and my husband is a year younger than me at 67. We have lived in the borough of Islington for our entire lives.

“John has always had a passion for Arsenal – he held a season ticket for more than 35 years and as well as going to every home game he went to as many away matches as possible, which included travelling all over the world to watch his favourite club play the sport he always loved.

“Then, devastatingly, in 2014 he was diagnosed with PCA – Posterior Cortical Atrophy – which caused a loss of sight and early dementia.

“We tried out multiple activities and many different classes for John over a number of years, but none of them were suitable for him and he didn’t get much enjoyment out of any of them. We were surfing the internet and asking everyone we could think of when we finally came across a great club for John and myself in WeSwim.

“The swimming sessions are held at Ironmonger Row baths, where there’s a team of volunteers to help people with disabilities one to one in the water. The volunteers are there to motivate, encourage, support and just be a friendly face for people who would otherwise find it difficult to swim in a mainstream session. It helps people to be active and to get the mental health benefits, as well as the physical benefits from swimming.

“We started going in April 2022 and at first John wasn’t keen on the idea of me leaving him if I decided not to get in the water. Thankfully the team at WeSwim made John feel at home and safe, and the first time John went in without me being there he ended up loving it and wanting to attend every week. Then he made friends there and loved it even more, and he has been attending as often as possible.

“The sessions also increased John’s mobility and gave me much-needed respite for an hour or so – John needs help around the clock. We would recommend WeSwim to anyone with a disability who’s in need of some activity and enjoyment.

“I know that The Arsenal Foundation funding has helped WeSwim with pool hire, volunteer training and management costs, and I think it’s great that the club John has supported for so long helps the local community in this sort of way. At this moment in time, with all the money involved in the sport of football, we believe it is more important than ever that football clubs help out local charities and their communities.”

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Arsenal in the Community WeSwim

Arsenal fan John suffers from PCA, which causes a loss of sight and early dementia. The WeSwim sessions are his favourite activity after trying many others that didn’t give him any enjoyment

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