Tarmac container donation saves Dumfries and Galloway Wheelchair Athletes after arson blaze

September 28, 2021

An old shipping container, donated by Tarmac, has saved a wheelchair athletics club from closure after arsonists destroyed nearly £50,000-worth of vital equipment.

When fire wrecked the storage unit of Dumfries and Galloway Wheelchair Track Athletics Club, all hope seemed lost for the club and its members.

Rebuilding the array of highly-specialist equipment seemed almost futile with no safe and secure home to keep them in. But in stepped Tarmac, which offered the disused storage container and even shipped it cross-country from Middlesbrough to Dumfries.

Russ Watson, chairman and head coach at the club, said: “We would almost certainly have gone under had Tarmac not stepped in. The arsonists destroyed most of our kit, much of which is valuable, including wheelchair racers and hand cycles which can cost between £3,500 and £4,000. And we had eight of them!

“We also lost three-wheel bikes, training machines, carbon wheels, helmets and eight pairs of racing gloves, which alone cost up to £400 each!

“Quite apart from the replacement costs, a lot of the equipment had sentimental value to many of our members and me.

“Replacing the kit would have been pointless without a place to securely store it all, so this container couldn’t have come at a better time. We’re so grateful to Tarmac for everything it has done.”

Now, with help from the local community and businesses including Tarmac, the club has been pretty much rebuilt and restocked, to the delight of members and Russ, whose daughter Shelby is the T33 World Champion wheelchair racer and nine-times world record holder.

“The new container is stronger and twice the size of the old one. Thanks to other donations we have also been able to install CCTV and a steel access ramp,” added Russ. “We’ve now replaced about 70 per cent of the kit but still want to buy another small or medium three-wheel race bike – we don’t call them trikes – and a wheelchair racer with footplate. They are top of our wish-list.”

Michael Hart, production manager at Tarmac’s Jericho Bridge Quarry, arranged for the disused container to be collected from the company’s Barrasford Quarry and shipped on a low-loader to Dumfries and Galloway.

Michael said: “The club does such marvellous work in the community and when we read about their plight we felt we had to do something to help. It was an easy decision to donate this old container, which was originally in service at Teesport.”

Member of Dumfries and Galloway Wheelchair Track Athletics Club surveying the damage of the arson attack