OBE award for Luton man in Queen's New Year Honours
A man from Luton has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List for services to disability sport.
Martin McElhatton, chief executive of WheelPower - the national charity for wheelchair sport - was awarded an OBE in the 2020 New Year Honours List.
An OBE is an order of the British Empire award, it is the second highest ranking order of the British Empire award, it is awarded to someone for making a great impact in their line of work.
Martin, who has worked for WheelPower for over 30 years, was paralysed in a road traffic accident in 1979 and following rehabilitation at the National Spinal Injuries Centre, Stoke Mandeville, took up wheelchair basketball, initially at club level and then progressing to play for Great Britain in the 1984 Paralympic Games, 1986 World Championships and 1987 European Championships.
He joined WheelPower in 1987 and has been leading the organisation for the past 22 years.
Martin is committed to helping young and newly disabled people to play and enjoy sport and lead active lives, he said: “It is a huge honour to receive an OBE and I am so proud of the work we have achieved here at WheelPower to give thousands of disabled people the joy of playing sport and seeing how it can positively impact their lives.
"I would like to thank everyone who has supported me throughout the last 30 plus years including my family, friends, colleagues and all the amazing people who have let me be part of their sporting journey.”
Martin has played a key role in developing the work of WheelPower, which transforms the lives of young and newly disabled people through sport as well as its facilities at Stoke Mandeville Stadium, including a £10.2 million redevelopment in 2003.
Martin was also involved in the growth and development of wheelchair tennis nationally and internationally, as a player, coach and administrator, serving as President of the International Wheelchair Tennis Association from 1987-2013 as well as Chairman of the National Wheelchair Tennis Association of Great Britain for over 35 years.
Rob Wilson, Chair of WheelPower commented "Everyone at WheelPower is absolutely delighted and thrilled for Martin.
"He fully deserves the recognition he is getting for 30 years of dedication and service to disability sport.
"In those many years of service, Martin has been a key figure in transforming the lives of so many young and newly disabled people, knowing first hand what they are going through and how sport can make a difference and lift people up again."
Martin helped establish the National Paralympic Heritage Trust, of which he is a Trustee, and the new National Paralympic Heritage Centre which sits within the Stadium complex.
He has also been instrumental in delivering the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville every two years since London 2012 when he helped WheelPower and Stoke Mandeville host the Paralympic Torch Lighting Ceremony and Torch Relay for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Martin was honoured by being invited to be a Torchbearer for the Games in 2012.
HM Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Helen Nellis said “it is always a thrill to read how people in Bedfordshire are making a huge difference to their community in so many ways. My sincere congratulations to all those who have been awarded Honours and my thanks for your huge contribution."
Martin is also a great supporter of community sport in Buckinghamshire and has served as a Board Member for Leap, the Active Partnership for Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes for over nine years.