Courage, tenacity, ambition, hope. These are principles and qualities that most people tend to hold in high regard, but are sometimes in short supply. Even so, everyone has the ability to summon and apply them, and sometimes having a shining example of the application of them can give the rest of us hope. This is especially so when the person setting the example is an Extreme Wheelchair Athlete.
This story is about just such a remarkable individual, who has overcome startling odds and disabilities to develop himself towards the attainment of his highest potential. His name is “Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham, and readers of his story will doubtless find great inspiration in his efforts, insights that may help individuals to find the strength to conquer their own personal shortcomings and difficult circumstances.
Aaron J. Fotheringham came into the world on the 8th of November, 1991. He was born in gambling mecca of Las Vegas, and at birth was diagnosed with the medical condition known as spina bifida. He was given up for adoption at an early age and was later adopted by Steve and Kaylene Fotheringham, who had also adopted five other children.
Growing up with Spina bifida was anything but easy for Aaron. Spina bifida comes from Latin words that translate to ‘split spine.’ It is so described this way because the spinal columns of affected individuals do not fully develop and close prior to birth. Spina bifida generally appears in three separate forms. Spina bifida occulta, meningocele, and myelomeningocele. Each different kind of spina bifida has its own set of symptoms, with occulta being the least damaging and myelomeningocele the most. With the latter type, portions of the spinal nerves as well as the spinal cord itself protrude through a gap in the spinal wall, and this situation often results in serious nerve damage and partial paralysis.
In Aaron’s case, his spina bifida rendered his legs useless at an early age. He spent the early years using crutches to get himself from place to place. Around the age of 8, he was given a wheelchair in order to improve his mobility. And this is when the legend of “Wheelz” begins.
His adopted parents Steve and Kaylene believed in providing a stimulating and loving environment for all of their adopted children, and even though Aaron was in a wheelchair this principle extended to him as well. They supported him as any good parents would, but at the same time encouraged him to be independent and reach for his goals as any other child would.
His older siblings felt the same way, and from a young age made a point of including him in all of the activities they enjoyed. Aaron’s older brothers were into extreme sports, often visiting local skate parks. Aaron would tag along and it was here where Wheelz got his first taste of the sport that would ultimately take him around the world.
The Skate ParkWatch Video
On a fateful day when Aaron was eight years-old, one of his older brothers took him to a nearby skate park and asked him if he would like to try it out himself. After receiving his father’s blessing, he took the literal plunge! His first few forays weren’t pretty, and in his own words he “ate dirt” more than a few times before starting to develop his own special techniques and skills. Wheelz liked it so much and had such a great attitude that he kept at it, and before long was not only landing right side up, but was seeking even bigger challenges.
Aaron was now well on his way to inventing his very own sport, and progressed to the point where he could perform complicated tricks such as 180’s, grinds, and all from his wheelchair. But, this wasn’t enough for Wheelz, and soon he began to flirt with the idea of doing a back flip.
Having made up his mind to try, he convinced his mom to allow him to train at a park called Woodward that featured training pits with foam safety linings. He went to work, and within only two days had landed the first back flip in a wheelchair! Wheelz had arrived and he was quickly becoming one of the world’s first Extreme Wheelchair athletes.
Wheelz: Amazing Accomplishments
Over the next few years, Aaron Fotheringham worked hard to perfect his techniques and invented new tricks. Like any other sport, this took a lot of practice-months in some cases, but his can-do attitude and enthusiasm for his new extreme sport kept him going through everything. Soon enough, he and a friend joined forces to design a new kind of wheelchair that could survive the rigors of the extreme sport.
By 2010, Wheelz had attracted the attention of Nitro Circus, which is a special TV program that features extreme athletes such as X Game Champion Travis Pastrana and many others. This gave Aaron the opportunity to travel the world and showcase his astonishing skills in front of millions of people. His accomplishments on tour include rail grinds, front flips, the world’s first double back flip on a wheelchair, and this mega ramp run that is simply mind boggling.
Recently, all of Aaron’s activities culminated into one of Aaron’s most amazing stunts that took place during the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio.
In front of 50,000 fans and operating from a six-story mega ramp; Aaron raced down the steep ramp launching himself at high-speed into the air and through a ring of bad-ass pyrotechnic effects.
“When Life Gives You a Wheelchair..”
Aaron Fotheringham has embraced the fact that he is a role model to many, and spends a large portion of his own time traveling to motivational assemblies and sharing his remarkable story with people across the world. He is living proof that no matter what a person’s circumstances may be, it is always possible for them to pursue and conquer their dreams. For Aaron it was becoming the best Extreme Wheelchair Athlete in the world. After all, as Wheelz loves to tell people, “When life gives you a wheelchair, find a skate park.” True words to live by.