Boy, 11, to paddleboard 100km for kids club

An 11-year-old boy from Stourbridge is set to paddleboard 100km (62.1 miles) down the River Wye to raise funds for a kids club that has made a difference to his life.

Len began attending Tumble Downs, a club for children with additional needs in Stourbridge after being diagnosed as autistic at the age of six.

"It's a place where he can be himself and have fun. He hasn’t got to worry about what people think about him being too noisy, or him stimming," said dad Duncan.

Len, his dad, and several other adults from Chelmarsh Sailing Club in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, where they are members, will set off from Glasbury, Powys, on 29 June for the three-day feat.

The group is due to finish on 1 July in Ross-on-Wye. The fundraising target of £1,500 has already been surpassed.

"Tumble Downs is struggling, this is going to make a huge difference in keeping those smiles going for kids who use it," said Duncan.

"I like going there because there's other autistic children going," Len told the BBC.

Duncan added the club made a difference to him as a parent as it provided a place for him to talk to other parents going through the same struggles.

"After a diagnosis like that, being a parent, you're emerging into this huge world and you don’t know where to turn," he said.

Len's love of paddle boarding began when he was seven.

During the Covid pandemic in 2020, Len was struggling with the lack of routine, and being unable to see other people.

Duncan contacted Chelmarsh Sailing Club to see whether Len could have a go.

"They don't usually allow people down there under the age of nine, but they allowed him to," he said.

"It was just a magical day. About 15 paddleboarders turned out to help Len. It’s just grown from there."

Len has been putting in practice ahead of the challenge.

The first day will see him travel 23.5 miles (37.8km), the second day is the longest, with a 28.5-mile (45.8km) journey planned, with a shorter final day of about 12 miles (19.3km).

"I did 25 miles to practice, from Atcham to Bridgnorth," he said.

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