Gemma Stevenson is in no doubt the Thomas Read bursary has the power to make a difference to so many lives as she prepares to support a fundraiser for the initiative.

Awarded each year to an applicant, or applicants, who have been granted funding from the Journalism Diversity Fund and have a long-term illness, health problem or disability, Stevenson was the first recipient of the award back in 2015.

At that time she was at a crossroads, disillusioned with her job as a teacher and the limited opportunities the profession appeared to give her as a wheelchair user living with dystonia – a disabling neurological movement condition.

And despite a severe lack of confidence, she decided to take the ultimate plunge and retrain as a journalist at St Mary’s University.

Flash forward five years and Stevenson is an effervescent young woman who proudly declares she is ‘living her best life’, saying the Thomas Read bursary was more than just about financial support.

“It was always my dream to pursue a career in journalism but I never thought it would be possible,” Stevenson exclusively told Sky Sports News.

“Honestly, as someone with a disability. I couldn’t have done it without the Thomas Read bursary.

“Of course finance is a big barrier to studying and getting into the industry but it was more than about the money.

“For me the bursary was about instilling self-belief in myself through the constant support I received – through Sky, the Read family and the NCTJ.

“Before it I had no confidence in what I could do but since then, it has been a complete game-changer.

“I look back five years ago and I am a completely different person now, living my best life.”

‘It gave me a voice – now I want to give back’

Funded by the Thomas Read Foundation, the award was set-up in memory of Sky Sports News journalist Thomas Read, who died unexpectedly in 2015 at the age of 25.

Before his death Read was an inspirational young journalist who, in spite of his cerebral palsy, achieved a substantial amount in the field of journalism in a short space of time.

The bursary was set up to promote that those with a disability are not prevented from achieving their goals within journalism.

Stevenson is a prime example of succeeding over adversity, having gone on to cover some of the biggest para sports events across the globe for Sky Sports.

And with a virtual fundraising day set for this Saturday, June 27, she is ready to give back to bursary which has given her so much.

“There will never be a year when I don’t try and support the bursary if I can because it has made such a difference to my life and so many others as well,” Stevenson said.

“So I want to help them out and make sure there are the funds there for the future because we need more voices like mine and Thomas'”

Ahead of Saturday’s event, Thomas’ parents Carolyn and Kevin added: “We set up the bursary in his memory to support students with a disability who share his drive and enthusiasm and to highlight the importance of having an inclusive and diverse media.

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