One of The Primary Club’s Area Representatives, David Bentley, writes about one of the many volunteers who put the funds you provide to such good use.

We first met Tony Clark some ten years ago in Swindon at the Finals of the British Tenpin Pairs Championships. Tony had travelled in the company of two other Visually Impaired (VI) teams from Sheffield who had qualified, a journey taking many hours and involving two train journeys and numerous taxis.

The early start was a prelude to what would be a very long day’s bowling when eleven games were to be played to determine who would be crowned National Champions for that year. Together with my colleague John Spalton, I had journeyed by car to Swindon from near Sheffield in far less discomfort and time, totally unaware of the situation prevailing for the competitors (who were also carrying their rather weighty bowls too…).

John and I were privileged to attend on behalf of Primary Club, main sponsors of the competition. We could not fail to be impressed by the resolution and stoicism shown by all of the competitors, not just the Sheffield contingent.
Despite impairments which most of us would find unbearable and debilitating we were struck by the fact that none of them were self pitying – instead displaying tenacity and a steely resolve. They play the hand they were dealt without grumble or complaint.

Since that first meeting we have had the pleasure of seeing Tony and his fellow competitors on numerous occasions, and were delighted to learn some eighteen months ago that he was to succeed the long serving outgoing Chair of Blind Tenpin for British Blind Sport, Jo Dixson. Tony is a 48 year old family man working for Sheffield Council in the Housing Department, a position he has held there for some twenty five years. His duties as Compliance Officer are varied ensuring that council owned houses are safe and fit for occupation.

A cycle accident in his youth resulted in the loss of vision in one eye, but Tony’s official classification when competing in VI sport as B3 for level of impairment does not apply to tenpin bowling. Tenpin utilises a handicap system similar to golf and visual impairment plays no role in setting this as it is based purely on past performance. The position of Chair of Blind Tenpin is not a ceremonial one although it is an honorary one – it involves much hands-on organising and supervising the running of the various leagues, including booking venues for national competitions and most importantly securing funding to cover the costs of these events.

Whilst the Primary Club grant of £4500 goes a long way to supporting the National Pairs competition it does not go near to covering the whole expenses. Being pro-active is a watchword for Tony and he actively encourages all participants to raise both funds and awareness of VI sport. Tony is a great role model for the visually impaired – he embodies all that is to be aspired to with his energy and enthusiasm, and works tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the silky smooth running of the whole operation throughout the year. All whilst holding down a full time job and being a full time dad and husband too. Whilst he chairs the Tenpin Division of British Blind Sport it is undoubtedly in safe hands.

In common with many of his fellow competitors spending time with Tony is an inspiring and motivating occasion, and gives us confidence that our grant aid is well deserved and well spent.

David Bentley
Hon Rep for Primary Club