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At the Tigers Trust, we work alongside Riverside Community School to provide PE provision for the children for the academic year. Most of our provision is PE based delivery, working with different classes, age groups and abilities. However, there has been a child in particular, Emily Atkin, in Mrs France’s class (JF) who we have seen excel in our sessions as the year has gone on. 
 
When we first started working with Emily in JF class in September 2023, she was enthusiastic about sport, especially football. However, Emily was diagnosed with Batten’s Disease in January 2022, and she was struggling physically. Batten Disease is a rare neurodegenerative disorder that causes blindness, epilepsy, difficulties sleeping, decline of speech, language and swallowing, and deterioration of fine and gross motor skills. Since September, she has struggled with movement, as well as going from partially sighted to blind, and her speech deteriorating. 
 
We wanted to help the school staff and offer further support for Emily. We work with her each week to provide extra support and work with her individually to cater for her needs moving forwards. This helped Emily as she started to build a great relationship with us, and we gained her trust along the way. We developed our sessions by incorporating equipment that made sounds, including the use of a football or ball with bells in them. This enabled Emily to develop her kicking and control with the football, as well as enhance her throwing and catching skills. When it came to our lunchtime football club, we used the football with the bell for our matches. This was used by everyone taking part and this gave Emily more confidence to engage with others. As a result of this, Emily has also achieved the ‘Star of the Week’ award several times throughout the year, clearly demonstrating the Premier League Primary Stars values of 'Being Inspiring' and always 'Being Ambitious'. 
 
When Emily was asked about how she felt having Tigers Trust in his lessons with her, she said: "Thank you for everything the Tigers Trust has done for me.” 
 
With Emily’s condition deteriorating, we started to make sessions even more inclusive and give her similar challenges to other children within the group, with support from her teaching assistant. No matter what challenge we have given Emily, she has always tried her best and has done this with a smile on her face. This has been amazing to see, and we have been so impressed with her passion for sport. 
 
Emily’s teacher, Mrs France, has been really impressed with her achievements this year, this is what she said: “Emily has really enjoyed the opportunity of joining in with the Tigers Trust sessions with her peers this year. The steady pace of these lessons has meant that Emily has time to practice her skills meaning that she has made great progression with her basic ball skills, In addition Emily also attends the weekly football club at lunchtime where her self-esteem has been boosted by the number of goals she has scored each week! 
 
Premier League Primary Stars PE Officer Marc Daddy also commented on Emily's progress: "Emily is so engaged with our programme and is such a bright, bubbly person to be around with such a great personality. Since we have started delivering the PE sessions it was clear to see Emily has such a passion for sport and she got so involved with everything we had to offer. Emily's core skills have developed because of this, such as using different parts of her body, following instructions and when it has come to the football, using her football skills to further develop." 
On Saturday 27th April 2024, Emily got the amazing opportunity to be a mascot for Hull City vs Ipswich Town. After a mini tour of the MKM Stadium, Emily got to meet all of the players aswell as Head Coach at the time, Liam Rosenior. All of whom were lovely and signed Emily's autograph book as well as getting photos with her. Emily also got to have a kick around on the pitch before proudly leading the team alongside Hull City Defender Jacob Greaves to a packed out MKM Stadium crowd. Jacob wore ear defenders in support of Emily to put her at ease and both teams walked out of the tunnel at Emily’s pace. At the Tigers Trust, inclusion is at the heart of all we do; and this was a special moment for all! 
 
Emily’s Dad, Ricky, shared this amazing experience with her daughter, and had this to say: “What an unbelievable experience it was for Emily to be a mascot for Hull City. Emily was made to feel like royalty not only by all the members of the Tigers Trust but also by the players of Hull City. Emily loves football and this experience has just reinforced why she admires the sport so much. Emily's world is filled with constant daily battles and football is one of her happy places that she can escape the reality of her condition and just enjoy watching (in her case listening) and playing her favourite sport. The Tigers Trust and Hull City are now firm favourites in her world of football and will forever be one of the best things to happen to her. Being a mascot has given not only Emily but her Dad, mum and older brother memories that will last a lifetime." 
 
We are so proud of you Emily! Your determination is inspiring, it’s an honour to work with you! 
 
You can watch Emily's inspiring story by clicking here 
 
Emily’s family are working hard to raise awareness about Batten Disease and raising funds to ensure Emily makes special memories, you can read all about her story and how to support by clicking here 
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