Skate for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus is something that is very near and dear to my heart. It all started as a crazy idea I had when I was working for the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Northern Alberta(SBHANA) in 2012. I wanted to create a new event for the organization that was fun, empowering, different, and of course, raised money! At the time I was also doing some work for some crazy guy from Riot (I think Andrew was his name lol) and an idea came to me...a skate comp! Now, you might be thinking....that's a cool idea...but what does a skate comp have to do with spina bifida?
Enter Aaron "Wheelz" Fotheringham.
Aaron was born with spina bifida.
Spina bifida is a birth defect. The spinal column fails to develop properally during pregancy resulting in varing degrees of permanent damage to the spinal cord and nervous system - leading to partial or total paralysis of the lower limbs, depending on the location and severity of the lesion.
Aaron is someone who was going to let nothing stop him. No matter what. At an early age he had a passion for BMX. Instead of limiting himself, Aaron found a different way to do what he wanted. It wasn't long before he was tearing up the skatepark in his wheelchair. Aaron still pushed himself and in 2006 he landed the first ever wheelchair backflip. Let me write that again. HE LANDED THE FIRST EVER WHEELCHAIR BACKFLIP!
There's more. Aaron moved on to the MEGA RAMP and DOUBLE backflips. No big deal.
I had come across Aaron doing research and I wanted him to come to Edmonton. I wanted him to be a part of the skate comp.
Through careful planning, fundraising, and strategizing (with MANY people), and because of the trust and support of the SBHANA Board of Directors, I was able to have Aaron "Wheelz" Fotheringham come to Edmonton. He was going to run a workshop for 10 individuals with spina bifida on WCMX. The workshop was to happen the morning of the inargual Skate for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus.
Meeting Aaron was beyond surreal. He has boundless energy and is so positive that you can't help but smile and be happy when you are around him. The BEST BEST BEST part was seeing faces of the attendees of the workshop - how thrilled, inspired, and empowered they were feeling was all over their faces.
The workshop would not have been possible without the support, patience, and muscles of 10 members of the skate commmunity. These guys volunteered their time the morning of the comp to spot for the workshop attendees and make sure they were safe...well as safe as you can be shredding the skate park.
After the workshop, Aaron gave all the volunteers, particpants, and spectators a demo of what he can do in the skatepark. And we were amazed, thrilled, and inspired. For months after the event people were talking about how amazing/crazy/insane/inspiring Aaron was and how cool it was that we had an opportunity to witness it first hand.
My goal for that event wasn't just to raise awareness about spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Or even to raise money for the SBHANA. It was to destory stereotypes. What was so special about this event was that everyone there helped contribute to the destruction of stereotypes that are ever so unfortunately present in our society. Skaters showed us they gave a shit. Aaron showed us that anything is possible. And the community showed us (and reminded us) that there is so much love to give and we only need to point it in the right direction for it to flourish.
Skate for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus continues to be a success and grows each and every year. The support that the skate community has shown this event is incredible and I am so thankful to have the support of so many wonderful people. This year marked our third year and was our biggest yet! Close to $5000 was raised and will support Camp Freedom; a summer camp for teens with spina bifida.
This year will be a tough year to beat - but I may have some tricks up my sleeve for next year! Stay tuned :)