Local charity aims to make trip to seaside accessible for all

Members of the Mae Murray Foundation enjoy the family fun day at Benone - a similar event is planned for Brown's Bay this Sunday.
Members of the Mae Murray Foundation enjoy the family fun day at Benone - a similar event is planned for Brown's Bay this Sunday.

A Larne charity has high hopes of creating an inclusive beach in the borough following the successful launch of a similar facilty at Benone.

The Mae Murray Foundation is currently working with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, evaluating the feasibility of introducing an inclusive beach in 2018.

The Mae Murray Foundation hosted an all-ability family fun day at Benone recently and are preparing to hold a similar event at Brown's Bay this Sunday.

The Mae Murray Foundation hosted an all-ability family fun day at Benone recently and are preparing to hold a similar event at Brown's Bay this Sunday.

Brown’s Bay beach has been earmarked for the scheme and a pilot event will be held this Sunday, September 17 (weather permitting), to gauge the interest locally.

Mae Murray Foundation volunteers will bring a range of equipment including beach chairs, floating chairs and infant sand seats but as spaces are limited, it is essential to pre-book by emailing family numbers and ages to info@maemurrayfoundation.org

Last month, Benone beach in Limavady became Northern Ireland’s first fully inclusive beach, thanks to work carried out by the Mae Murray Foundation in partnership with Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

Until now beaches in Northern Ireland have been off limits for families of mixed abilities as there wasn’t any appropriate equipment or facilities for those with additional needs.

The Mae Murray Foundation recently hosted an all-ability family fun day at Benone beach, showcasing the new equipment including Northern Irelands first surfboard suitable for wheelchair users.

The Mae Murray Foundation recently hosted an all-ability family fun day at Benone beach, showcasing the new equipment including Northern Irelands first surfboard suitable for wheelchair users.

However, as a result of fundraising, lobbying and engagement by the Mae Murray Foundation, which seeks to create inclusive environments across Northern Ireland, families of all abilities are now able to enjoy time at the beach together.

Alix Crawford, founder of the charity, whose daughter Talia has quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, said: “There are many people, young and old, who have never felt sand running through their fingers or experienced the thrill of being in the sea, due to the inaccessibility of beaches.

“We have bought specialist equipment, such as hoists and changing benches as well as beach chairs, walkers and floating chairs, which can be used by people with limited mobility.

“We also have special matting which will allow a platform for easier unloading from vehicles and transfer into beach equipment, offering wheelchair users the chance to have the seaside experience that so many of us take for granted.”

Alix set up the Mae Murray Foundation as she doesn’t believe that there should be compromises to be made by families of those with additional needs.

The charity was set up in memory of Alix’s late mother, Mae Murray, whose estate provided the money required to establish the foundation.

Alix added: “It is sad that, in this modern era, barriers to joining in still exist for so many people and their families.

“It is our vision to help create a society with true participation for all in leisure and social settings, regardless of age and ability.

“We are working closely with other councils and have plans to ensure that there are at least two other fully inclusive beaches in Northern Ireland by the end of 2018.”

For further information, visit the website www.maemurrayfoundation.org