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Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney ‘absolutely blown away’ by Wrexham powerchair football club

Wrexham co-chairmen Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds watch a powerchair football session.

Wrexham co-chairmen Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney watched on from the sidelines enthusiastically.

They cheered on as players wearing the club’s famous red and white colors contested a game.

The Hollywood stars were not watching the first team in National League action but were taking in a session by the club’s powerchair side.

Wrexham is the only powerchair football club in Wales and Reynolds and McElhenney took time out to take in a session when they visited north Wales for the first time last year.

“They were absolutely blown away by it and spent more than an hour of their time with us,” said the club’s disability liaison officer, Kerry Evans.

“They got very involved, cheering on the players.

“In fact Rob, as he was leaving at the end, was video calling his children and what made it special for me was he was saying ‘wait until you come over and see powerchair football’.

“His little boy said ‘what is it daddy?’, and Rob said, ‘this is one of our teams at Wrexham Football Club’.

“To me that was a pretty special moment, to feel that powerchair football players are being included as one of the teams at the football club.”

Wrexham held an open evening to showcase power chair football on Friday.

Powerchair football is open to anybody who has a disability and participants do not have to be a wheelchair user to take part.,

“We started it up in October 2021 and I’m already confident in saying that this really is changing lives,” Evans said.

Kerry Evans with Wrexham co-chairman Ryan Reynolds at the Racecourse Stadium.
Kerry Evans with Wrexham co-chairman Ryan Reynolds at the Racecourse Stadium.

“This has brought a sport to predominantly the people who are taking part with me at the moment, which are wheelchair users.

“To them the thoughts of ever playing football was something that they never felt they could achieve.

“We’ve brought that concept to them and it really is changing lives.

“We’ve got people saying, ‘I live for my Friday’, and, ‘I can’t wait to get up on a Friday to go to powerchair football’. It’s absolutely fantastic.”

Currently 16 adults take part in Wrexham’s powerchair football sessions and the hope is to create opportunities for younger players as well.

“We want the people who enjoy the fun and social side of it to feel they can attend and enjoy and that’s what we want them to get out of it,” said Evans, a former winner of the National League’s Volunteer of the Year award.

“But we’ve also got some very competitive players that are already asking, ‘when are we setting up a team and when are we going to be taking part in competitions?’

“My aim after the summer will be to work on a team that want to play competitively and teams are offering to come down to play friends.

“There’s leagues, Euros and World Cups in powerchair football and the world is our oyster with this one. This can grow and grow.”

Evans is herself a wheelchair user following what she describes as a “life-changing” experience.

“I was able-bodied, a mum of a seven-year-old and been married a couple of years with both myself and my husband doing full-time jobs,” she told BBC Radio Wales Sport.

“On a Saturday night I collapsed and had a brain aneurysm that ruptured and within 24 hours I was told I wouldn’t walk again – life-changing beyond belief.

“It not only affected the fact that I can no longer walk and I’m paralyzed down my left side, but my internal organs on the right side don’t work also.

“It really had a profound effect. My daughter went from having a mum walking her onto the schoolyard one day to never being able to do that ever again.

“For the first 12 months I think you grieve as if you’ve passed away and that person has gone and this new person has been put in place.

“I never ever thought I’d be in the position I’m in now.

“At the time I never thought I’d have anything to offer. My husband became my full-time carer and life was very tough.

“But bit by bit you rebuild and I got the opportunity at Wrexham as a volunteer and to be honest they’ve given me as much as I’ve given them, because it changed my life beyond belief.”

Evans began the role as Wrexham’s disability liaison officer in 2017 and since then has worked tirelessly in making the club accessible.

Having co-ordinated away travel for disabled fans and established a quiet zone so that people with autism can feel comfortable at games, she now works full-time for the National League club.

Members of Wrexham's powerchair football team in action
Members of Wrexham’s powerchair football team in action

“I’ve found my passion in life, I found where I fit,” Evans added.

“I say I’m one of the luckiest people employed by Wrexham, because I don’t have any negatives around my job and we’re always making a difference for the better.

“We’re always changing people, we’re changing lives and that is a lovely position to be in.”

Such has been her contribution to the club that co-chairmen McElhenney said how lucky they were when taking over the club to inherit Evans.

“The last time they came over and I got to speak to them, Ryan Reynolds said that if his daughters grew up to be anything like me he’d be a very proud dad,” she said.

“How can you concept that? It’s pretty big.

“Right from day one they wanted to change the community of Wrexham as much as they wanted Wrexham Football Club to do well.

“I feel there’s a buzz around Wrexham and they’re already making that impact.

“I know for a fact that they will continue to do that, because that was as important in their mission statement of changing Wrexham for the better as the club itself.”

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