After two decades of waiting, Achilles NZ has returned to Whangārei to promote active lifestyles for people with and without disabilities.
About 20 people gathered at the town basin yesterday morning for the official opening of the Whangārei chapter of Achilles NZ and proceeded to walk some of the Hatea Loop in glorious Northland sunshine.
The organisation was started with a chapter in Whangārei in 1994 before it was closed in 1999. The idea of local chapters was to reach out to communities and help people become more active through running and walking activities.
"It's a big thing to have it back here," chapter leader Craig Jessop said.
"My job has me travelling in a car a lot and sitting at a desk so getting exercise like this is important."
Jessop said he wanted to grow the chapter's membership by appealing to everyone, not just people with disabilities. He hoped it would inspire people to take up physical exercise and even enter in official running or walking events.
"Achilles NZ has always been a family club and what it's all about is not being just for people with a disability, it's for everyone.
"My statement to people is if you don't think you belong to us, you actually do."
In conjunction with Achilles NZ, the chapter would be assisted by Parafed Northland, Athletics NZ, parkrun and the local running club.
Achilles NZ national manager John Bowden said he was glad to see the return of a local chapter in Northland.
"It's a goal at Achilles NZ to get into all the major towns but history says we should be here."
With rates of disabled people exercising much lower than people without a disability, Bowden said he was determined to see the chapter succeed.
"For me, the bottom line is growing membership and guides so we get more people who are fit and healthy in the Whangārei community regardless of whether you've got a disability or not."
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