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Churches Organise Major Festival for Paralympics' Opening 

Churches in the town where the Paralympic movement was born have co-ordinated a bumper free festival to coincide with the opening of the Games tonight

Between three and five thousand people are expected at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium for the event organised by the Aylesbury Churches Network. The pioneering rehabilitation work at Stoke Mandeville Hospital by Sir Ludwig Guttmann led to the development of the Paralympic Games.

The festival includes huge inflatable games, opportunities to try Paralympic sports, a multi-sensory zone, art and craft activities, puppets and giant bubbles. The Opening Ceremony will be shown on a big screen and there is also a free barbeque.

The Aylesbury Churches Network consists of fourteen churches of different denominations, and the group is underwriting the costs and providing at least 200 volunteers on the night.

These include a team from Southcourt Baptist Church, which is organising Messy Church art and craft activities.

One of the co-ordinators is Amy Dawkins, who has recently returned from Ecuador where she worked with children with disabilities with the charity Life in Abundance Trust. The team has organised a series of multi-sensory activities, with links to the Bible.

'It's all tailored towards the Paralympics', said Amy. 'There is more multi-sensory activities because we expect more children with special needs than normal.

'The Bible messages will show both the children and the adults that God loves everybody. It's different to a normal Messy Church where arts and crafts are just one part - here it is what we're doing, though more of it. It's very exciting to be part of.'

The volunteers for the arts and crafts are mostly drawing from Southcourt, but a number of from other churches have joined too.

There will also be representatives from the charity Through the Roof, and event co-ordinator Martin Kuhrt described it as 'the Big Society in action'. 'The churches are doing it in partnership with local and national authorities and charities. We are particularly proud of the heritage of Stoke Mandeville and determined to celebrate it and demonstrate the core Paralympic values it represents.'

Jon Burns, UK Director of More Than Gold said, 'This is a shining example of the way we are seeing churches working together to demonstrate the realty of what they believe to the communities they are part of.'


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