Claire Falls (front left), 13, rallies the MAX Stars for a great, inclusive event
At first glance, Canberra local Claire Falls looks like any other 13-year-old girl. But when she’s not at school, she’s busy rubbing shoulders with the most powerful and influential people in Australian Soccer for her annual disability-awareness event, FEVER Footballathon.
Claire was diagnosed with strabismus almost four years ago, a condition that left her with low vision affecting her depth perception, three-dimensional sight and peripheral vision. It proved to be a turning point in the young soccer-enthusiasts life, and her FEVER idea was born.
“When I was diagnosed I found there wasn’t really a lot in football for people who can’t play mainstream,’” she said, “I wanted to change that, so I came up with the idea of FEVER, which encourages people to get involved in sport in a fun and inclusive way.”
For the second year running, MAX Employment participating in the annual tournament, competing as the MAX Stars and raising awareness for disability support and inclusion. MAX Belconnen Business Manager and team captain Jo Bryce said the team was back to reclaim their Participation Award.
“We were blindfolded and had to kick audible balls to cones (balls that rattle when kicked) last year, and rely on our teammates calling out where to go. It was so much fun, and we won the award for participation! We’re back this year with two teams to have another shot at it!
“Claire is an inspiration, and the event is an amazing way to raise awareness of disability inclusion. FEVER is a great idea,”
Claire was just 11 years old when her vision for FEVER was realised. In 2016, the event is set to be bigger than ever, and Claire’s Mum Shari couldn’t be more proud of how Claire’s event has grown.
“Claire is naturally tenacious. Organising this event takes a lot of drive, which means she can achieve anything. She has some major support for the event this year, which is a testament to her hard work,”
“She doesn’t see herself as someone with limited ability, she sees herself as someone of different ability, which is what has allowed her to become as resourceful as she is.”
And Shari says the list of VIPs for the 2016 event is extensive, saying “the backing she has this year is great. Paralympic CEO Lynne Anderson is coming, along with Pararoos Coach Kai Lammert, ACT Minister for Social Inclusion and Sports Yvette Berry, ACT Education Minister Shane Rattenbury and Pararoos players Ben Roche and Cam Gudgeon.”
In a happy twist of fate, the event is being held in the wake of the 12 month anniversary of the announcement by the FFA that the Pararoos will receive additional funding. It’s a move that Claire endorses in her own grassroots event, with all FEVER proceeds going towards local disability football programs.
Claire reiterates the event is all about having fun in an inclusive way, saying “I like seeing people included in what they want to do, and just seeing people be able to have fun in a really inclusive way. That’s what FEVER is for.”
Jo agrees with Claire’s sentiment, adding “last year we really learned to admire the abilities of the people we help every day and not focus on their disability. I’m sure we’ll learn even more this year, and be a little more aware of what it’s like to live with disability.”