IWAS Executive Director Maura Strange receives the Paralympic Order

11 September 2009
by Morwenna Breen-Haynes
The listing was posted by WheelPower - British Wheelchair Sport - News

IWAS Executive Director Maura StrangeThe International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Executive Board and family are pleased to announce that the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has this year awarded the Paralympic Order to our own Executive Director and Secretary General, Maura Strange.

Speaking about her award of the Paralympic Order, Maura says I am completely over whelmed & honoured to become a member of the Paralympic Order and proud to be able to share this celebration with the many individuals with whom I work, both as volunteer experts, staff and athletes. The Paralympic Order is an honour that I find rewarding not only because of what it represents, but also because it is awarded by the IPC and my colleagues and peers.

Being the highest tribute a person connected with the Paralympic Movement may achieve the IPC honours those who they feel have made important contributions, and illustrated the Paralympic ideal through their actions.

 According to the IPC: ‘Every year, the IPC honours people and organization that have made outstanding and long-lasting contributions to the Paralympic Movement by awarding them the Paralympic Order. Any person or organization who has illustrated the Paralympic ideal through his/her actions, has achieved remarkable merit in the world of sports for persons with a disability, or has rendered outstanding services to the Paralympic cause, either through their personal achievement or their contribution to the development of sport for persons with a disability, may be admitted to the Paralympic Order.’

Maura was first introduced to the Stoke Mandeville experience through her volunteer work as part of the fundraising drive to build the new £10million Spinal Injuries Centre in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. With a short leap Maura became involved in the Stoke Mandeville Games experience. Combined with her business management background Maura was able to volunteer in a variety of capacities, such as administration, fundraising and personal mentor to name just a few. The 1984 Paralympic Games at Stoke Mandeville proved to be a catalyst for a deeper involvement and a wider understanding of the challenges facing the disability sports movement at that time.

Throughout the mid to late 1980’s her volunteer commitment expanded to include assisting Wheelchair Basketball teams at various events in Europe and working as a volunteer coordinator with Organisers of International Congresses on Disability Sport, mainly in Italy. It was at one of these Congresses in 1988 that Joan Scruton, the then Secretary General of the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation (later ISMWSF and currently IWAS), asked her if she would like to work as a volunteer administrator in the ISMGF Secretariat at Stoke Mandeville during the Games period and with the Sports Co-ordinating Committee at their annual meetings, which she did in 1989 and 1990.

In 1991, the commitment became full time and she joined the ISMWSF Secretariat in the capacity of Sport Coordinator. This experience stood her in good stead to take over as Secretary General when Joan Scruton retired in 1993. In addition to the volunteer portfolio as Secretary General, the ISMWSF Executive Board appointed her Executive Director, the first time that the Federation had a full-time paid staff person to run its operations. From 1993 to date, Maura has been charged with the development of a full-time professional operational base for the ISMWSF / IWAS at its Headquarters at Stoke Mandeville, providing continuity of operations, developing stronger support mechanisms for sports growth and athlete participation in IWAS programmes, identifying needs and service provision for an increasing membership, and developing policy and procedures in respect to IPC partnership development, all of which occurred through a period of great change for the movement. The environment of change within both IWAS and IPC called for a great deal of flexibility, cooperation and collaboration.

Maura states that the past 30 years, through volunteer and professional commitment, have proven to be interesting, challenging, stimulating and productive. Throughout that time Maura Strange has supported and recognised the challenges of a mainly volunteer driven movement and endeavoured to encompass within the policy and operation the qualities and needs of both staffing and volunteer roles in a harmonious synergy in support of nations’ objectives. She feels extremely privileged to witness the ongoing achievements of all athletes world wide in their chosen sport and to have contributed to the paralympic movement and its aims. Her close involvement at grass roots international level and the experience of maintaining close collaboration with all sports and nations puts her in a key position to support and promote the ideals of the paralympic movement and to understand and make provision for the needs of the nations at all levels of their development.