Thomas Read bursary changes lives, says first recipient Gemma Stevenson
Latest fundraiser means more than £50,000 has now been raised for the bursary over the past five years to help promote an inclusive and diverse media
By Blake Welton
Last Updated: 27/06/20 7:25pm
Gemma Stevenson is in no doubt the Thomas Read bursary has the power to make a difference to so many lives as she helped raise over £3,000 for the initiative on Saturday.
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."
Bursary reaches new fundraising milestone
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 the Thomas Read bursary looks set to continue to support so many other students with a disability after raising over £3,000 for virtual fundraising event 'Turn Out for Thomas' on Saturday.
Overall more than £50,000 has been raised for the bursary over the past five years as it continues to go from strength to strength in providing an inclusive and diverse media.
James Read, Thomas' brother said: "Equitable opportunity for those who want to train to be a journalist is what the Thomas Read Bursary is all about.
"Through providing financial support with our friends at the NCTJ, the Bursary aims to ensure that having an additional health need or disability is not a barrier to achieving ambitions in journalism.
"The 'Turn Out for Thomas' event has demonstrated the fantastic lengths those at Sky, the NCTJ, previous recipients and friends will go to in helping future beneficiaries.
"With over twenty different events happening in parallel today, people have run, walked, cycled, wheeled and hit their way to our target. Thank you to all of them and to those who donated."