Disabled athlete Sam Wilson launches appeal for new wheelchair
Born with cerebral palsy, Sam Wilson has spent her childhood in a wheelchair.
But she has gone on to swim at international level - and compete in basketball on a national stage.
Now 18, Sam may be flourishing in the sporting world - but is being held back in her everyday life by an unsuitable wheelchair.
Having had her current chair since she was 13, she said it simply no longer meets her needs.
Describing it as big, bulky and uncomfortable, Sam, of Aspatria, is desperate for a lightweight wheelchair that will give her the independence enjoyed by most women her age.
She is therefore launching a crowdfunding appeal to raise the £5,000 she needs for the perfect chair.
The model that has been recommended to her is the RGK Tiga FX, but it is not available on the NHS - and even if it was she is not due a replacement in the near future.
Sam, who lives with her family at St Mungos, said: "The one I've got doesn't fold, and I've only got a small car so it won't fit in the boot.
"It has to go on the back seat and it's really hard to get it in.
"It also takes five minutes just to set it up."
She added that because she's had it since the age of 13, it is no longer a comfortable fit and hurts her back.
However, if her fundraising campaign is successful, she said the new chair would change her life.
"It would make me much more independent. I wouldn't need someone coming everywhere with me. I wouldn't need help getting into the car. It would be amazing," she said.
The new wheelchair weighs about the same as six bottles of milk.
It also folds up small enough that it can fit into an overhead locker on a plane - meaning she can travel more independently, particularly if she achieves her dream of playing basketball for Great Britain.
Sam has already had help from a charity to buy her £4,500 basketball chair, but this new one would be for everyday use.
Sam, who was the only physically disabled child at Beacon Hill School in Aspatria at the time, said throughout her childhood she struggled with disability, always feeling she was different.
But discovering sport, via the Cumbria Wheelchair Sports Club, playing alongside disabled and able-bodied players, has changed her life.
"The first time I played basketball it was brilliant. I really felt normal because everyone was in wheelchairs.
"We all compete on an equal level" she said.
Having just won promotion with the CWSC Panthers, Sam and her teammates received a gold medal and were named north and national champions.
She also attended the Great Britain camp last year and is determined to represent GB in the future.
Now the only piece missing from the jigsaw is in her day-to-day life.
If she can get a new wheelchair that folds up to fit in the boot, she said she would be able to go out with friends like any other 18-year-old.
She added: "I miss out on a lot of normal every day life, such as going to the cinema or out for dinner with my friends. It has left me very isolated.
"As well as the chair being able to fold, it is a lot more comfortable to sit in and as a 90 per cent wheelchair user you can only imagine how important comfort is," she added.
To donate to Sam's appeal, visit: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/samantha-wilson-4?utm_id=106&utm_term=2Rwv25WME.