Flood of tributes to campaigner and Norwich City Powerchair FC stalwart Ben Parkin

Ben Parkin campaigned to raise issues facing disabled people.

Ben Parkin campaigned to raise issues facing disabled people. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

Tributes poured in yesterday from all walks of life to a disability campaigner and sports fan who has died aged 25.

He visited Parliament with the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

He visited Parliament with the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

Ben Parkin, from Norwich, had a rare form of muscular dystrophy and died on Sunday following a chest infection.

Former Norwich City goalkeeper Robert Green with Ben Parkin pictured in 2006.

Former Norwich City goalkeeper Robert Green with Ben Parkin pictured in 2006. - Credit: Evening News © 2006

Mr Parkin had long campaigned to tackle the obstacles faced by disabled people and was a stalwart of Norwich City Powerchair FC.

He worked for the Norwich Community Sports Foundation (CSF) which supported the powerchair club.

And last year he helped the powerchair club win promotion to the national top flight as goalkeeper, letting in just two goals in an 18 -match run.

Andy Bode, vice-chairman of the powerchair club, said on behalf of all the club's members: 'We are deeply saddened by the loss of Ben. He was a wonderful friend to all involved in the club.'

Outside of sport Mr Parkin helped raised thousands of pounds for charity and in 2011 he travelled to Westminster to address MPs about the problems faced by young disabled people.

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Mr Parkin had duchenne muscular dystrophy – a rare, degenerative form of the condition.

Friend Rosie Hodgson spoke with him on Saturday and he said he thought he was recovering from the chest infection.

She said she would remember Ben for his love of Norwich City and band Westlife.

'Despite being disabled myself, Ben taught me anything is possible and encouraged me to be independent like him,' she said.

In a tribute, friend Johnathan Byrne said: 'Ben you have been the most incredible friend to me. Over the years you have supported me through thick and thin and I can't thank you enough. You have made me into a much better person.'

The club's secretary Mark Womersley persuaded Mr Parkin to take up powerchair football and said they never looked back. 'Not only did Ben quickly become established as our rock-steady goalkeeper, he also rapidly rose through the ranks in the administrative side of the club,' he said.

'He is an absolute credit to his mum Kate, his dad Dave and his brother Rob, and he will be sorely missed.'

Paul Abbott who coached Mr Parkin and worked with him at the CSF, said: 'He was always smiling and outgoing. Nothing got him down. He will be missed all over.'

Mr Abott's son Jamie, 16, was also good friends with Mr Parkin.

Mr Parkin initially joined the CSF as a volunteer and began an apprenticeship in January.

CSF director, Ian Thornton said: 'He was a terrific ambassador for his power wheelchair team and had been preparing for the team's play-off to stay in the Premier League next season.'

Former Norwich North MP Ian Gibson, who was involved with the club, said: 'They are an amazing squad and Ben was a starring member of it.

'I always admired the spirit that they engendered. He will be a tremendous loss.'

Shaun Turner, chief executive of Norfolk FA, said: 'Our thoughts are with Ben's family and many friends at this sad time.

'Ben's involvement with Norwich City Powerchair FC has been well documented and displayed his love for football, a desire to participate and inspire others, as well as his passion for Norwich City FC. He will be deeply missed by all.'

Norwich South MP Simon Wright said: 'I met Ben on a number of occasions while he was campaigning on behalf of younger people with disabilities.

'He was determined to make things better for all those who use wheelchairs or had other mobility problems.

'He raised with me the need to improve access to public transport in Norwich and to tackle prejudice.

'Ben was also keen to praise those who got it right, highlighting in particular his love of wheelchair football. He went out of his way to try and get results by playing an active role in campaigning organisations including Trailblazers, which has successfully encouraged MPs to look seriously at the issues faced by young disabled people.'

Team mate Tracey Vine said: 'We become goods friends always chatting about football of course. A friend, a team player, a friendly face is how I think of you.'

George Sanders, chair of Norwich Access Group, said: 'He was a popular young man and will be sadly missed.'

•If you would like to pay tribute to Mr Parkin leave your messages below or email reporter Tom Bristow on email tom.bristow@archant.co.uk.

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