Fund in memory of tragic Chichester student gives Bobbi a basketball boost

Bobbi with colleagues and supporters at the University of Chichester
Bobbi with colleagues and supporters at the University of Chichester

An ambitious basketball player from Chichester has thanked a charity after she was given thousands of pounds to buy a new wheelchair that will help her play at the highest level.

Bobbi Clarke, a student at the University of Chichester, received more than £2,000 from the Steve Bernard Foundation for the custom-made chair, which she will use for the upcoming season.

The 24-year-old, who plays for Littlehampton Tornadoes wheelchair basketball club, was an aspiring boxer before suffering a seizure last year which left her unable to move her right arm and leg.

Final-year student Bobbi, who is training to become a primary school teacher, said: “I spent my entire life playing sport so it has been hard not being able to do what I love. I’m so grateful to the Steve Bernard Foundation and can’t wait to start using the new chair in competitive games.

“Basketball wheelchair has given me an opportunity to be active again, helping my physical and mental health enormously. I am really enjoying training with the team and would be lost without it.”

The Steve Bernard Foundation, based in Bournemouth, was created and named in honour of the University of Chichester student who died in a car crash in 2005. The charity raises money for community sport projects across the south coast, often through extreme activities, and has recently celebrated reaching a milestone £400,000 target.

Founder Tony Bernard, who was given an honorary degree by the university in 2016 on behalf of his son, pledged to continue raising money for people in need. He said: “It’s very emotional every time we help someone because we think of Stevie.

“When we lost him in 2005 we were just going to help a few people to buy a few things. We’ve now supported more than 500 projects across 62 sports – and never thought we would reach £400,000. Bobbi is a great example of how playing a sport – or in her case many sports – can have such a big impact on people’s lives. I can see her going all the way to the top of her game.”

The custom-made wheelchair, which cost around £4,000 and took three months to build, will help Bobbi compete with the league’s best wheelchair basketball players, with a faster profile and extendable height. She and the university had already raised around £2,000, through charity projects with fellow students, before the Steve Bernard Foundation match-funded the rest.

Jack Greenwood, president of the students’ union at Chichester, said: “We have a strong connection with the Steve Bernard Foundation, which is very close to our hearts, so it’s a privilege to work with a charity who do so much for people in our area.

“We are here to make a difference in our students’ lives, and it’s great that our community has rallied together to make Bobbi so happy. She has a bright future in sport ahead of her.”

For more about the Steve Bernard Foundation, and how it helps community sport projects across the south coast, go to www.stevebernardfoundation.com. Alternatively find out more about the University of Chichester students’ union at www.ucsu.org.