Young Olympic hopefuls look to Rio 2016 thanks to work of Barking and Dagenham charity

PUBLISHED: 13:06 24 July 2013 | UPDATED: 13:06 24 July 2013

Judo champion Hayley Willis throws her opponent

Judo champion Hayley Willis throws her opponent


Competing in the Olympics is a dream for many of us, perhaps even more so after the spectacular events of London 2012.

For most of us that dream is a fantasy for which we have neither the skill nor the driving ambition to fulfil, for some of us however, the only thing standing in our way is the funding to compete.

Living The Dream Trust is a charity that aims to ensure no athlete that has the potential to compete on the world stage is deprived of that chance simply because they cannot afford it.

The brainchild of founder Teresa Parish, who recently spoke about her work at the Barking and Dagenham Business Awards, the charity was officially launched in July 2007 with the express aim of financing promising young athletes so they could compete at the highest level.

Then it was in the run-up to London, now their sights are set on the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year and the road to the Rio Olympics in 2016.


“We didn’t want any youngsters to miss out on a major competition because of funding,” said Teresa.

“What people don’t appreciate is that youngsters get picked for Great Britain or England and everybody then assumes that funding is available, but that simply isn’t the case.”

Barking and Dagenham was identified by the charity as an area where talented sportsmen and women were at risk of slipping through the gap.

Budding young stars have to fund themselves just to train with national squads who often meet in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham.

“I think if we weren’t there then some of them wouldn’t be able to go to this training and therefore they would lose their international places,” explained Teresa.

“Without Living the Dream some of them could even have gone out of sport altogether.”

Within five years of launching, the charity had hit its target estimate of £100,000 and it has since supported some 30 athletes through various grants to reach for their goals.

Around 10 of them have already claimed international vests (the same as being capped) and are training with either England or Great Britain squads. Others narrowly missed out on selection for Team Great Britain at London 2012 in their respective sports, so this time their sights are set on the Commonwealth Games and Rio.

With so much support behind them, these athletes are moving ever closer towards living their dreams.

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