Monday, 2 July 2012

Olympic torch bearer wows Hastings firefighters

Lovely Lawrence Page has won over the hearts of Hastings firefighters who nominated him to become a torch bearer for the 2012 Olympics.

News has come in that he has been selected and will carry the torch part of the way through St Leonards on 17th July, the day after his birthday.

Twenty-five years ago, Lawrence, who has lived with learning difficulties his whole life, walked into the Hastings Community Fire Station and offered his voluntary services to wash service vehicles and fire engines.

Since that day it has been a relationship of love on both sides with Lawrence idolising the firefighters and the crews loving his sunny persona on station. Every Saturday he turns up to generally help out. Lawrence’s father, Jim, is immensely proud of his long list of achievements, and quite rightly so.

He may only stand at 5ft 2”, but has a huge personality and is known by many in Hastings.

When LT asked Jim if Lawrence was known in the town, his dad laughed and replied: “You are not kidding that he’s popular in the town! Everyone knows him and every Saturday he gets his own dinner at the same fish and chip shop. He’s more aware of things than people give him credit for.”

Forty-five-year-old Lawrence also holds down not one, but two jobs - one at a timber yard and one working on a farm. He also has a vast collection of marathon medals to his name, even though his father was slightly dubious at the idea at first. However, Lawrence proved he was made of tough stuff and at the age of 18 became one of the first people in the country with learning difficulties to run a marathon.

Jim said: “One Sunday lunchtime my other son said Lawrence could run a marathon and I said ‘you are joking’! He said ‘give it a try’ and, with the family behind him, he did it. He is such a fantastic little guy.”

Lawrence soon proved how capable he was and went on to run marathons all over the world, becoming a mascot and ambassador for Hastings firefighters at the same time. Lawrence has five gold medals and four silver medals to his name from competing in what used to be called the ‘Special Olympics’.

Lawrence even saved another man’s life while running the Oslo marathon.

Jim, who formed the charity the ‘Friends of The Conquest’ charity for people with learning difficulties and who is also a founder member of Hastings Runners, said:

 “In Norway Lawrence became quite a hero. I took three lads with learning difficulties over there to run in the Oslo marathon and one had an epileptic fit half way through.  Lawrence stopped running, put him in the recovery position, ensured he hadn’t swallowed his tongue and then ran to the paramedics. Lawrence then carried on running and was the last one in. Everyone in the stadium stayed there to wait for him and gave him a rapturous round of applause, as he was the last one to finish, which brought tears to my eyes.”

It’s easy to understand how Lawrence has made his father so proud and won over the hearts of ESFRS firefighters. Not just content with marathon running, he sets himself challenges and has completed several parachute jumps.

When asked about Lawrence’s qualities, Jim proudly replied: “Resilience for a start, good manners, politeness, which just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover.”

Asked if he has any advice for other parents who have a child with learning difficulties, he said: “Never give up and remember that everybody has got something to offer a talent of some description. You find that out when you mix with those with learning difficulties. It was foreign to me when I started this charity, but they are so polite and loving. I would just say always look for the best in people, like we did with Lawrence - who has been a tremendous example to others.

“Lawrence never spoke until he was two-and-a-half and has never stopped talking since then!”

These qualities all demonstrate why he is the perfect person to be a torch bearer for the 2012 Olympics and the ideal representative for Hastings.

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