February 2016: Inspirational former student plans 10k charity race


INSPIRATIONAL Francesca Dean is no stranger to challenges, which is why she has decided to take part in a 10k Race for Life in her electric wheelchair.

She was starved of oxygen at birth leaving her with cerebral palsy, which compromised her upper and lower limbs.

Now the former Haslingden High School student is a confident young lady determined to raise awareness and understanding of cerebral palsy and disabilities and willing to go into schools to share her story.

“What I want to do most of all is make people see me, not the wheelchair, I am a lot more than just someone in a chair,” said Francesca, 21.

“When I was asked by a pupil why I was in a wheelchair I just told her that my legs don’t work, you just have to make it easy for them to understand.”

She attended Stepping Stones Nursery in Haslingden and then spent a year at Tor View while arrangements were made for her to be mainstream schooled at St Mary’s CE School, Rawtenstall.

She lives with her dad Terry in Stacksteads and their house has been specially adapted with an extension providing Francesca with the independence she needs.

“My belief is anything is possible if you work hard at it and you are prepared to put in the effort,” she said.

At Haslingden High School she did work hard gaining 10 GCSEs. When she sat the exams she verbalised the answers to a teaching assistant who scribed.

“It was brilliant at Haslingden High School,” said Francesca. The first year was really scary because it was so big but the brilliant staff were amazing with me.”

She went on to AccRoss College where she learnt life skills and also a course on travel and tourism.

Francesca is now a business studies student at Blackburn College, where her personal tutor is Irfan Rashid.

She dreams of a job in the travel industry as well as showing off her dramatic skills on TV; she has already performed with the inclusive Cotton Shed Theatre Company.

“I will be completing the Race 4 Life 10k for Cancer Research UK at Heaton Park in Manchester in July,” said Francesca.

“I am in training and am going to the gym to improve my upper body strength and I will be going to Heaton Park to check out any problems with the paths.”

She also needs to check out how long the battery in her wheelchair will last. Francesca will be accompanied in the race by carers Rebecca Nuttall, Jade Haworth and Lara Olayinka.

“I have had a few members of my family affected by cancer,” said Francesca. “In October my great uncle John Hagans – Jackie – was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three days, but he is still with us.”

In 2004 she led a campaign to get an accessible roundabout in Western Park, Stacksteads, and succeeded.

One of her pet hates is people speaking to her carers and assuming she can’t talk for herself. She is very grateful to her parents Terry and Catherine who encouraged her daughter to realise she can do anything she puts her mind to.

To sponsor Francesca log on to https://www.justgiving.com/francescadean27/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=fundraisingpage&utm_content=francescade