ONE Sunday afternoon in July 1989, Dave Thompson's life changed forever.

Thirty years ago last week, at the age of 31, he broke his neck in a devastating accident while playing American Football.

The injury left him disabled and needing the use of a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

In the following years, Dave founded his Warrington Disability Partnership charity and set up the first Disability Awareness Day – an event that will be held for the 28th time this weekend.

But all of this would never have happened if an electrician hadn't been missing a spare part.

Dave's bargain shop PDK Discounts was due to move into a new store, meaning that he would be unable to line up in his familiar spot as defensive end for Warrington Scorpions in their top of the table clash with the Merseyside Centurions.

But the move was delayed and he did take to the field, his whole family there to watch.

Dave said: "It was one of those days that should never have happened.

"We were moving into a new premises that weekend, and I even rang the coach up and said I wasn't going to be available that Sunday.

"But Manweb had a part missing that they couldn't get – we basically couldn't move in that weekend, and I ended up playing.

"I suppose it was fate."

Dave spent nine months in hospital following the accident, and even considered suicide as he struggled to adjust to his new life.

The now 61-year-old said: "Those first few years were dark –I didn't want to be here in the early days, not really knowing what the future held.

"All I could see was the things we wouldn't be able to do again as a family, and what I wouldn't be able to do as an individual.

"I didn't see a future for us as a family – we'd lost our business in the town centre, we thought we were going to lose the house and we didn't know what support was available.

"You couldn't Google it because there was no internet.

"That's what Disability Awareness Day was meant to be all about, showing people what was available.

"Year one was just going to be a one-off show – in two more years it will be our 30th DAD.

Warrington Guardian:

Dave at Disability Awareness Day 2018

"This year, Disability Awareness Days will be taking place in countries like Cameroon, India and Uganda.

"When you think about it like that, it's phenomenal – it's quite humbling."

Around 500 exhibitors are expected at Walton Hall and Gardens for DAD 28, which is now Europe's largest not-for-profit disability expo.

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Dave added: "Accidents like mine or disabilities of any type are life-changing.

"One minute, I had a business and my kids looked up to me.

"The next minute I couldn't even tie my own shoelaces.

"But it's about remembering that you are still you.

"It's about what you can do, not what you can't do, that really matters.

"That's what DAD and WDP are all about."

Disability Awareness Day takes place between 10am and 5pm on Sunday, July 14 - including entertainment in the main arena, an arts marquee and a sports zone.

Entry is free, with free park and ride buses available from Warrington Bus Interchange and Wilderspool Business Park.